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Contrasting the role of human- and lightning-caused wildfires on future fire regimes on a Central Oregon landscape

Author(s): Ana M. G. Barros, Michelle A. Day, Haiganoush K. Preisler, John T. Abatzoglou, Meg A. Krawchuk, Rachel M. Houtman, Alan A. Ager
Year Published: 2021

Climate change is expected to increase fire activity in many regions of the globe, but the relative role of human vs. lightning-caused ignitions on future fire regimes is unclear. We developed statistical models that account for the spatiotemporal ignition patterns by cause in the eastern slopes of the Cascades in Oregon, USA. Projected changes in energy release component from a suite of climate models were used with our model to quantify changes in frequency and extent of human and lightning-caused fires and record-breaking events based on sizes of individual fires between contemporary (2006 −2015) and mid-century conditions (2031–2060). No significant change was projected for the number of human-caused fire ignitions, but we projected a 14% reduction in lightning-caused ignitions under future conditions. Mean fire sizes were 31% and 22% larger under future conditions (2031–2060) for human and lightning-caused ignitions, respectively. All but one climate model projected increased frequency of record-breaking events relative to the contemporary period, with the largest future fires being about twice the size of those of the contemporary period. This work contributes to understanding the role of lightning- and human-caused fires on future fire regimes and can help inform successful adaptation strategies in this landscape.

Citation: Barros, Ana M. G.; Day, Michelle A.; Preisler, Haiganoush K.; Abatzoglou, John T.; Krawchuk, Meg A.; Houtman, Rachel; Ager, Alan A. 2021. Contrasting the role of human- and lightning-caused wildfires on future fire regimes on a Central Oregon landscape. Environmental Research Letters 16(6):064081. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ac03da
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Fire History, Fire & Climate, Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 23379
FRAMES RCS number: 63948
Record updated: Aug 2, 2021