Canadian Forest Service Publications

The impact of uncertainty concerning historical burned area estimates on forest management planning. 2013. Savage, D. Wotton, B.M.; Martell, D.L.: Woolford, D.G. Forest Science 59:578-588.

Year: 2013

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35225

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.5849/forsci.11-081

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Uncertainty concerning landscape burn fraction estimates is seldom considered by forest managers when they determine the forest age class structure for flammable forest landscapes. Fire simulation models, each calibrated to be representative of one of two different portions of the province of Ontario, Canada, for which natural burn fractions have been estimated, were used to simulate annual area burned time series. Using these simulated data, confidence intervals were computed for given burn fractions over a given time horizon and used to determine a range in the amount of old forest area expected in those hypothetical forests to achieve ecosystem management objectives. Those old forest objectives were incorporated in a strategic forest management planning model to assess the impact on planned harvest volume for those forests given those burn fraction estimates. The natural burn fraction of the simulated forest representative of the northeastern Ontario study area was low, and consequently more old forest area was required to meet ecosystem management objectives, resulting in a lower average harvest volume in the simulated forest than is representative of northwestern Ontario for which a higher natural burn fraction was estimated and for which less old-growth forest area was required to achieve ecosystem management objectives.

Plain Language Summary

We examined the impact of uncertainty in the estimate of long term area burned for two regions of Ontario with differing fire cycles, one with high fire activity and one where fire activity was significantly lower. We found a considerable range in uncertainty in burn fraction estimates in both regions. The study demonstrated, through the development of a series of trade-off curves, how forest managers could use the information about the observed range in possible burn fraction values for a district to balance multiple forest use objectives for a region. For example, areas that are more fire prone can maintain sustainable harvest levels while producing higher volume of wood overall than areas with lower fire return intervals; this result is because the targets for amount of old forest in fire prone regions are much lower overall.