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Using simulation to map fire regimes: an evaluation of approaches, strategies, and limitations

Author(s): Robert E. Keane, Geoffrey J. Cary, Russell A. Parsons
Year Published: 2003

Spatial depictions of fire regimes are indispensable to fire management because they portray important characteristics of wildland fire, such as severity, intensity, and pattern, across a landscape that serves as important reference for future treatment activities. However, spatially explicit fire regime maps are difficult and costly to create requiring extensive expertise in fire history sampling, multivariate statistics, remotely sensed image classification, fire behaviour and effects, fuel dynamics, landscape ecology, simulation modelling, and geographical information systems (GIS). This paper first compares three common strategies for predicting fire regimes (classification, empirical, and simulation) using a 51 000 ha landscape in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area of Montana, USA. Simulation modelling is identified as the best overall strategy with respect to developing temporally deep spatial fire patterns, but it has limitations. To illustrate these problems, we performed three simulation experiments using the LANDSUM spatial model to determine the relative importance of (1) simulation time span; (2) fire frequency parameters; and (3) fire size parameters on the simulation of landscape fire return interval. The model used to simulate fire regimes is also very important, so we compared two spatially explicit landscape fire succession models (LANDSUM and FIRESCAPE) to demonstrate differences between model predictions and limitations of each on a neutral landscape. FIRESCAPE was developed for simulating fire regimes in eucalypt forests of south-eastern Australia. Finally, challenges for future simulation and fire regime research are presented including field data, scale, fire regime variability, map obsolescence, and classification resolution.

Citation: Keane, Robert E.; Cary, Geoffrey J.; Parsons, Russell A. 2003. Using simulation to map fire regimes: an evaluation of approaches, strategies, and limitations. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 12(4): 309-322.
Topic(s): Fire Regime, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity, Fire and Landscape Mosaics, Patch Size, 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: 7951
FRAMES RCS number: 4441
Record updated: Jul 26, 2018