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

Multidecadal trends in area burned with high severity in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area 1880–2012

Penelope Morgan A F , Andrew T. Hudak B , Ashley Wells A , Sean A. Parks C , L. Scott Baggett D , Benjamin C. Bright B and Patricia Green E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of Idaho, Department Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences, Moscow, Idaho 83844-1133, USA.

B USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 1221 South Main Street, Moscow, Idaho 83843, USA.

C USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, 790 E Beckwith Avenue, Missoula, MT 59801, USA.

D USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 240 West Prospect; Fort Collins, Colorado 80526, USA.

E 2327 NW Dorion Way, Bend OR 97703, USA.

F Corresponding author. Email: pmorgan@uidaho.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(11) 930-943 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17023
Submitted: 5 February 2017  Accepted: 8 August 2017   Published: 25 October 2017

Abstract

Multidecadal trends in areas burned with high severity shape ecological effects of fires, but most assessments are limited to ~30 years of satellite data. We analysed the proportion of area burned with high severity, the annual area burned with high severity, the probability areas burned with high severity and also the area reburned (all severities and high burn severity only) over 133 years across 346 265 ha within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness (SBW) Area in Idaho, United States. We used burn severity class inferred from digitised aerial photography (1880–2000) and satellite imagery (1973–2012). Over this long record, the proportion burned with high severity did not increase, despite extensive area burned in recent decades. Much greater area burned with high severity during the Early (1880–1934) and Late (1975–2012) periods than during the Middle period (1935–1974), paralleling trends in area burned. Little area reburned with high severity, and fires in the Early period limited the extent of fires burning decades later in the Late period. Our results suggest that long-term data across large areas provides useful context on recent trends, and that projections for the extent and severity of future fires must consider prior fires and fire management.

Additional keywords: fire ecology, fire regimes, fire severity, remote sensing.


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