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Spatial and temporal variations of fire regimes in the Canadian Rocky mountains and foothills of southern Alberta

Author(s): Michael D. Flannigan, Brad C. Hawkes, Marc-Andre Parisien, Marie-Pierre Rogeau, Rick Arthur
Year Published: 2016

Like many fire-adapted ecosystems, decades of fire exclusion policy in the Rocky Mountains and Foothills natural regions of southern Alberta, Canada are raising concern over the loss of ecological integrity. Departure from historical conditions is evaluated using median fire return intervals (MdFRI) based on fire history data from the Subalpine (SUB), Montane (MT) and Upper Foothills (UF) natural subregions. Fire severity, seasonality and cause are also documented. Pre-1948 MdFRI ranged between 65 and 85 years in SUB, between 26 and 35 years in MT and was 39 years in UF. The fire exclusion era resulted in a critical departure of 197–223% in MT (MdFRI = 84–104 years). The departure in UF was 170% (MdFRI = 104 years), while regions of continuous fuels in SUB were departed by 129% (MdFRI = 149 years). The most rugged region of SUB is within its historical range of variation with a departure of 42% (MdFRI = 121 years). More mixed-severity burning took place in MT and UF. SUB and MT are in a lightning shadow pointing to a predominance of anthropogenic burning. A summer fire season prevails in SUB, but occurs from spring to fall elsewhere. These findings will assist in developing fire and forest management policies and adaptive strategies in the future.

Citation: Rogeau Marie-Pierre; Flannigan Mike D.; Hawkes Brad C.; Parisien Marc-André; Arthur Rick. 2016. Spatial and temporal variations of fire regimes in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Foothills of southern Alberta. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 25:1117-1130.
Topic(s): Fire History, Fire Regime, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity, Fire Return Intervals
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine wet spruce-fir forest, Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest, Montane wet mixed-conifer forest, Montane dry mixed-conifer forest
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 14701
Record updated: May 11, 2018