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Riparian and adjacent upland forests burned synchronously during dry years in eastern Oregon (1650–1900 CE), USA

Author(s): Grant Harley, Emily K. Heyerdahl, James D. Johnston, Diana L. Olson
Year Published: 2020

Riparian forests link terrestrial and freshwater communities and therefore understanding the landscape context of fire regimes in these forests is critical to fully understanding the landscape ecology. However, few direct studies of fire regimes exist for riparian forests, especially in the landscape context of adjacent upland forests or studies of long-term climate drivers of riparian forest fires. We reconstructed a low-severity fire history from tree rings in 38 1-ha riparian plots and combined them with existing fire histories from 104 adjacent upland plots to yield 2633 fire scars sampled on 454 trees. Historically (1650–1900), low-severity fires burned more frequently in upland than in riparian plots, but this difference was not significant (P = 0.15). During more than half of the fire years at both sites, fires were extensive and burned synchronously in riparian and upland plots, and climate was significantly dry during these years. However, climate was not significantly dry when fires burned in only one plot type. Historically, entire riparian zones likely burned in these two study sites of the Blue Mountains during dry years. This study suggests that riparian and upland forests could be managed similarly, especially given the projected increases to fire frequency and intensity from impending climate change.

Citation: Harley, Grant; Heyerdahl, Emily K.; Johnston, James D.; Olson, Diana L. 2020. Riparian and adjacent upland forests burned synchronously during dry years in eastern Oregon (1650–1900 CE), USA. International Journal of Wildland Fire 29(7):602-610. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF19101
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Vegetation, Fire History
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21588
FRAMES RCS number: 61090
Record updated: Aug 3, 2020