Canadian Forest Service Publications

A meta-analysis of historic and current mixed-severity fire in the drier forests of western North America. 2012. Odion, D.C.; Hanson, C.T.; Arsenault, A.; Baker, W.L.; DellaSala, D.A.; Hutto, R.; Klenner, W.; Moritz, M.A.; Sherriff, R.; Veblen, T.T.; Williams, M.A. Page 113 in Proceedings, 5th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress: Uniting Research, Education and Management. December 2012, Portand Oregon, USA.

Year: 2012

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34657

Language: English

Availability: Not available through the CFS (click for more information).

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It is widely believed that suppression of low severity fires in drier forests of western North America has led to uncharacteristically severe fires, creating an unprecedented threat to these forests. To address this premise quantitatively, we compiled area-specific, historic rates (fire rotations) of moderate- and high-severity fire at landscape and regional scales from a variety of data sources. We compared these historical rotations with rotations for moderate- and high-severity fire occurrence since the onset of fire suppression, and since 1984, in the drier forests of western North America. We found that historic rotations for moderate- and high-severity fire were broadly consistent with a model of mixed-severity, not the low severity model that is much more widely embraced as characteristic of the drier forests. Regional stand-age data also support the applicability of a mixed-severity historic fire regime model to the drier forests. We also found little support at sub-regional and broader scales for the premise that the drier forests are facing an unprecedented threat due to uncharacteristically severe fire. In fact, the current rotations of moderate- and high-severity fire are generally low compared to those prior to fire suppression. A key management challenge lies with the transfer of information needed to move the public and decision makers from the current perspective that the effects of contemporary mixed-severity fire events are unnatural and harmful to an ecological perspective that recognizes their vital role in maintaining biodiversity and population processes. Such a shift in perspectives, along with shift in fire management to focus more on direct protection of human assets, may expand opportunities to manage fire for ecological benefits.