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Fire intensity and frequency as factors in the distribution and structure of northern ecosystems

Author(s): Miron L. Heinselman
Year Published: 1981

Most presettlement Canadian and Alaskan boreal forests and Rocky Mountain subalpine forests had lightning fire regimes of large-scale crown fires and high-intensity surface fires, causing total stand replacement on fire rotations (or cycles) to 50 to 200 years. Cycles and fire size varied with latitude, elevation, and topographic-climate factors. Some areas had smaller, less-intense surface fires at shorter intervals. The Great Lakes-Acadian forests had regimes of short cycle crown fires in near-boreal jack pine and spruce forests, combinations of moderate intensity short-interval surface fires and small-scale crown fires at longer intervals in red-white pine forests, and low intensity long-interval fires in hardwoods. Fire maintained the structure and pattern of the forest mosaic. These regimes still prevail in the far north. Elsewhere regimes and the forest mosaic are greatly modified by logging, man-caused fires, and fire suppression.

Citation: Heinselman, Miron L. 1981. Fire intensity and frequency as factors in the distribution and structure of northern ecosystems. In: Mooney, Harold A.; Bonnicksen, T. M.; Christensen Jr. , Norman L.; Lotan, James E.; Reiners, William A., eds. Fire regimes and ecosystem properties, conference proceedings; 1978 December 11-15; Honolulu, HI. Washington DC: USDA Forest Service. p. 7-57.
Topic(s): Fire History, Frequency, Fire Regime, Fire Intensity / Burn Severity
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine wet spruce-fir forest, Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
NRFSN number: 8406
FRAMES RCS number: 1720
Record updated: May 24, 2018