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

Simulated fire behaviour in young, postfire lodgepole pine forests

Kellen N. Nelson A B E , Monica G. Turner C , William H. Romme D and Daniel B. Tinker A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Program in Ecology and Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA.

B Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA.

C Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.

D Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email: Kellen.Nelson@dri.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(10) 852-865 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16226
Submitted: 24 December 2016  Accepted: 6 August 2017   Published: 12 October 2017

Abstract

Early-seral forests are expanding throughout western North America as fire frequency and annual area burned increase, yet fire behaviour in young postfire forests is poorly understood. We simulated fire behaviour in 24-year-old lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) stands in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States using operational models parameterised with empirical fuel characteristics, 50–99% fuel moisture conditions, and 1–60 km hr−1 open winds to address two questions: [1] How does fireline intensity, and crown fire initiation and spread vary among young, lodgepole pine stands? [2] What are the contributions of fuels, moisture and wind on fire behaviour? Sensitivity analysis indicated the greatest contributors to output variance were stand structure mediated wind attenuation, shrub fuel loads and 1000-h fuel moisture for fireline intensity; crown base height for crown fire initiation; and crown bulk density and 1-h fuel moisture for crown fire spread. Simulation results predicted crown fire (e.g. passive, conditional or active types) in over 90% of stands at 50th percentile moisture conditions and wind speeds greater than 3 km hr−1. We conclude that dense canopy characteristics heighten crown fire potential in young, postfire lodgepole pine forests even under less than extreme wind and fuel moisture conditions.

Additional keywords: ecological memory, fire ecology, fuel dynamics, Pinus contorta, Rocky Mountains, subalpine forest, succession, Yellowstone National Park, young forests.


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