Canadian Forest Service Publications

Mapping local effects of forest properties on fire risk across Canada. 2016. Bernier, P.Y.; Gauthier, S.; Jean, P.-O.; Manka, F.; Boulanger, Y.; Beaudoin, A.; Guindon, L. Forests 7: 157.

Year: 2016

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 37124

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.3390/f7080157

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


Fire is a dominant mechanism of forest renewal in most of Canada’s forests and its activity is predicted to increase over the coming decades. Individual fire events have been considered to be non-selective with regards to forest properties, but evidence now suggests otherwise. Our objective was therefore to quantify the effect of forest properties on fire selectivity or avoidance, evaluate the stability of these effects across varying burn rates, and use these results to map local fire risk across the forests of Canada. We used Canada-wide MODIS-based maps of annual fires and of forest properties to identify burned and unburned pixels for the 2002–2011 period and to bin them into classes of forest composition (% conifer and broadleaved deciduous), above-ground tree biomass and stand age. Logistic binomial regressions were then used to quantify fire selectivity by forest properties classes and by zones of homogeneous fire regime (HFR). Results suggest that fire exhibits a strong selectivity for conifer stands, but an even stronger avoidance of broadleaved stands. In terms of age classes, fire also shows a strong avoidance for young (0 to 29 year) stands. The large differences among regional burn rates do not significantly alter the overall preference and avoidance ratings. Finally, we combined these results on relative burn preference with regional burn rates to map local fire risks across Canada.

Plain Language Summary

This study quantifies fire risks based on forest composition. Indeed, fire does not occur randomly in a given area; fire risks are higher in conifer stands and lower in hardwood stands. The study also shows that fire risks increase with the age of the stand. Therefore, fire has a negative feedback effect, i.e. by renewing the forest, fire reduces risk risks.

The purpose of this research was to quantify the effects of forest properties on fire selectivity, to assess how constant this selectivity is in the fire regimes present in Canada, and to map out fire risks by combining regional fire regimes and fire selectivity based on forest characteristics.