Canadian Forest Service Publications

A global index for mapping the exposure of water resources to wildfire. 2016. Robinne, F.-N.; Miller, C.; Parisien, M.-A.; Emelko, M.B.; Bladon, K.D.; Silins, U.; Flannigan, M. Forests 7(1):22.

Year: 2016

Available from: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 36542

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.3390/f7010022

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Abstract

Wildfires are keystone components of natural disturbance regimes that maintain ecosystem structure and functions, such as the hydrological cycle, in many parts of the world. Consequently, critical surface freshwater resources can be exposed to post-fire effects disrupting their quantity, quality and regularity. Although well studied at the local scale, the potential extent of these effects has not been examined at the global scale. We take the first step toward a global assessment of the wildfire water risk (WWR) by presenting a spatially explicit index of exposure. Several variables related to fire activity and water availability were identified and normalized for use as exposure indicators. Additive aggregation of those indicators was then carried out according to their individual weight. The resulting index shows the greatest exposure risk in the tropical wet and dry forests. Intermediate exposure is indicated in mountain ranges and dry shrublands, whereas the lowest index scores are mostly associated with high latitudes. We believe that such an approach can provide important insights for water security by guiding global freshwater resource preservation.

Plain Language Summary

Wildfires are essential in maintaining ecosystem functions and services in many parts of the world. However, wildfires can disrupt the quantity, quality and availability of critical drinking-water resources. Although problems with water after wildfires have been well studied over small areas, the potential extent of these effects has not been examined at the global scale. We take the first step toward a global assessment of the risk to water due to wildfire by creating an index of risk and showing areas of risk on a world map. Factors affecting fire activity and water availability were identified and used as risk indicators. The resulting map shows the greatest risks are in tropical forests. Mountain ranges and dry shrublands are at intermediate risk, whereas the lowest risk is associated mainly with high latitudes. We believe that such this index can provide important insights for water security by guiding efforts to preserve global freshwater resources.

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