Canadian Forest Service Publications

Contributions of ignitions, fuels, and weather to the spatial patterns of burn probability of a boreal landscape. 2011. Parisien, M.-A.; Parks, S.A.; Miller, C; Krawchuk, M.A.; Heathcott, M.; Moritz, M.A. Ecosystems 14(7):1141-1155.

Year: 2011

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 32675

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1007/s10021-011-9474-2

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The spatial pattern of fire observed across boreal landscapes is the outcome of complex interactions among components of the fire environment. We investigated how the naturally occurring patterns of ignitions, fuels, and weather generate spatial pattern of burn probability (BP) in a large and highly fire-prone boreal landscape of western Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park. This was achieved by producing a high-resolution map of BP using a fire simulation model that models the ignition and spread of individual fires for the current state of the study landscape (that is, the ‘control’). Then, to extract the effect of the variability in ignitions, fuels, and weather on spatial BP patterns, we subtracted the control BP map to those produced by “homogenizing” a single environmental factor of interest (that is, the ‘experimental treatments’). This yielded maps of spatial residuals that represent the spatial BP patterns for which the heterogeneity of each factor of interest is responsible. Residuals were analyzed within a structural equation modeling framework. The results showed unequal contributions of fuels (67.4%), weather (29.2%), and ignitions (3.4%) to spatial BP patterning. The large contribution of fuels reflects how substantial heterogeneity of land cover on this landscape strongly affects BP. Although weather has a chiefly temporal control on fire regimes, the variability in fire-conducive weather conditions exerted a surprisingly large influence on spatial BP patterns. The almost negligible effect of spatial ignition patterns was surprising but explainable in the context of this area’s fire regime. Similar contributions of fuels, weather, and ignitions could be expected in other parts of the boreal forest that lack a strong anthropogenic imprint, but are likely to be altered in human-dominated fire regimes.