Canadian Forest Service Publications

Strategic analysis of forest vulnerability to risk related to fire: an example from the coniferous boreal forest of Quebec. 2015. Gauthier, S.; Raulier, F.; Ouzennou, H.; Saucier, J.-P. Can. J. For. Res. 45:553-565.

Year: 2015

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35842

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2014-0125

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As fire is a major disturbance in boreal forests, it is now recognized that it has to be taken into account in forest management planning. Moreover, as the time of exposure to fire is related to stand productivity, combining information on productivity and fire should help in assessing the potential to sustainably manage forests. We present a method to assess potential vulnerability to the risk of fire and illustrate it in the boreal coniferous forest of Quebec. This method takes into account some sources of uncertainty related to the estimation of productivity and fire risk. Spatialization of stand productivity from growth and yield curves allowed us to compute the area comprised of productive stands of each district with or without considering fire risk. Results showed that productive area is generally decreasing with decreasing degree-days, increasing elevation, or in relation to surficial geology. Furthermore, districts with moderate to good productivity were found to be vulnerable to fire when burn rates were greater than 0.333%·year-1. Our innovative approach allowed us to assess the vulnerability of the districts to fire and could be helpful in many regions in the context of a projected increase in future area burned under climate change.

Plain Language Summary

The researchers developed a method for assessing the vulnerability of a region’s stands to forest fire. This vulnerability assessment takes stand productivity and the burn rate into account.

Various environmental factors have an impact on stand productivity, including altitude, surface soil composition, and the period during which temperature is conducive to growth. For example, the higher the altitude, the less productive the stands will be.

The burn rate corresponds to the average percentage of area burned each year. For the study area (a strip covering the entire width of Quebec between 49º and 53º N latitude), the researchers estimate that a stand is vulnerable to fire if the fire cycle is less than 300 years.