International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Balancing uncertainty and complexity to incorporate fire spread in an eco-hydrological model

Maureen C. Kennedy A B E , Donald McKenzie C , Christina Tague D and Aubrey L. Dugger D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of Washington, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, Box 352100 Seattle, WA 98195-2100, USA.

B Present address: University of Washington, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, 1900 Commerce Street, Box 358436, Tacoma, WA 98402, USA.

C Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory, Pacific Northwest Research Station, US Forest Service, 400 N 34th Street, Suite 201, Seattle, WA, USA.

D University of California, Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, 2400 University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93117, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email: mkenn@uw.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(8) 706-718 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16169
Submitted: 9 September 2016  Accepted: 12 May 2017   Published: 30 June 2017

Abstract

Wildfire affects the ecosystem services of watersheds, and climate change will modify fire regimes and watershed dynamics. In many eco-hydrological simulations, fire is included as an exogenous force. Rarely are the bidirectional feedbacks between watersheds and fire regimes integrated in a simulation system because the eco-hydrological model predicts variables that are incompatible with the requirements of fire models. WMFire is a fire-spread model of intermediate complexity designed to be integrated with the Regional Hydro-ecological Simulation System (RHESSys). Spread in WMFire is based on four variables that (i) represent known influences on fire spread: litter load, relative moisture deficit, wind direction and topographic slope, and (ii) are derived directly from RHESSys outputs. The probability that a fire spreads from pixel to pixel depends on these variables as predicted by RHESSys. We tested a partial integration between WMFire and RHESSys on the Santa Fe (New Mexico) and the HJ Andrews (Oregon State) watersheds. Model assessment showed correspondence between expected spatial patterns of spread and seasonality in both watersheds. These results demonstrate the efficacy of an approach to link eco-hydrologic model outputs with a fire spread model. Future work will develop a fire effects module in RHESSys for a fully coupled, bidirectional model.

Additional keywords: HJ Andrews, New Mexico, Oregon, Santa Fe watershed.


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