Canadian Forest Service Publications

A refinement of models projecting future Canadian fire regimes using homogeneous fire regime zones. 2014. Boulanger, Y.; Gauthier, S.; Burton, P.J. Can. J. For. Res. 44:365-376.

Year: 2014

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35420

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2013-0372

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Mark record


Broad-scale fire regime modelling is frequently based on large ecological and (or) administrative units. However, these units may not capture spatial heterogeneity in fire regimes and may thus lead to spatially inaccurate estimates of future fire activity. In this study, we defined homogeneous fire regime (HFR) zones for Canada based on annual area burned (AAB) and fire occurrence (FireOcc), and we used them to model future (2011–2040, 2041–2070, and 2071–2100) fire activity using multivariate adaptive regression splines (MARS). We identified a total of 16 HFR zones explaining 47.7% of the heterogeneity in AAB and FireOcc for the 1959–1999 period. MARS models based on HFR zones projected a 3.7-fold increase in AAB and a 3.0-fold increase in FireOcc by 2100 when compared with 1961–1990, with great interzone heterogeneity. The greatest increases would occur in zones located in central and northwestern Canada. Much of the increase in AAB would result from a sharp increase in fire activity during July and August. Ecozone- and HFR-based models projected relatively similar nationwide FireOcc and AAB. However, very high spatial discrepancies were noted between zonations over extensive areas. The proposed HFR zonation should help providing more spatially accurate estimates of future ecological patterns largely driven by fire in the boreal forest such as biodiversity patterns, energy flows, and carbon storage than those obtained from large-scale multipurpose classification units.

Plain Language Summary

Large-scale fire regime modeling (area burned, severity of fires, recurrence and abundance in a given area) is usually based on vast ecological or administrative zones. High variability within these zones can distort spatial estimation of fire activity.

In order to obtain a better projection of fire regimes, the researchers have identified "relatively homogeneous" fire regime zones across Canada. For the period from 1959 to 1999, the researchers identified 16 zones where the area burned and the number of fires were similar. By modeling fire regimes based on these areas, the researchers expect to obtain more accurate predictions of future fire regimes than by using ecological or administrative zones.

The results show that Canada-wide predictions are similar, based on the zones used. However, using homogeneous zones makes it possible to target areas where fire regimes are unique, which is not the case when heterogeneous zones are used.