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Climatic influences on forest fire and mountain pine beetle outbreaks and resulting runoff effects in large watersheds in British Columbia, Canada

Author(s): Margot E. Vore, Stephen J. Déry, Yiping Hou, Xiaohua Wei
Year Published: 2020
Description:

Many studies have defined the interrelationships between climate, forest disturbance, and runoff at small scales (<100 km2), but few have translated these relationships to large watersheds (>500 km2). In this study, we explore the relationship between climate, extreme forest fire seasons, mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreaks, and runoff in eight large watersheds within the Fraser and Peace drainage basins in British Columbia (BC), Canada from 1981‐2019. Using a climate index based on precipitation and air temperature anomalies, we find extreme forest fire seasons (those that burned >5% of a watershed’s area) are most likely to occur when a warm/dry summer is preceded by multiple seasons of cool/wet conditions. Using the climate suitability class (CSC) model to explore the relationship between climate and MPB outbreaks, we validate previous findings that lower‐than‐average precipitation, warm growing season temperatures, and lack of extremely cold temperatures during winter are connected to MPB outbreaks within central BC. However, the CSC model needs improvements to accurately assess MPB suitability in northern watersheds that are located outside the model’s calibration region, either through weighted variables or lower degree day thresholds. Minimal runoff response occurs from these forest disturbances, with the most prominent runoff change being related to the 2014 fire season in the Osilinka and Mesilinka watersheds. The limited effects of forest disturbance on annual runoff are likely related to the large watershed sizes, low percentages of disturbed area in some study watersheds and post‐MPB forest dynamics. These results provide valuable insight into the interrelationships of climate, forest disturbance and runoff in large Canadian boreal forested watersheds.

Citation: Vore, Margot E.; Déry, Stephen J.; Hou, Yiping; Wei, Xiaohua. 2020. Climatic influences on forest fire and mountain pine beetle outbreaks and resulting runoff effects in large watersheds in British Columbia, Canada. Hydrological Processes 34(24):4560-4575. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.13908
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Simulation Modeling, Fire Effects, Fire & Climate, Fire & Wildlife, Invertebrates, Mountain pine beetles
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 22331
FRAMES RCS number: 61925
Record updated: Dec 8, 2020