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

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

Penelope Morgan , Andrew Hudak , Ashley Wells , Sean Parks , Scott Baggett , Benjamin Bright , Patricia Green


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 analyzed the proportion of area burned with high severity, the annual area burned with high severity, and 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, USA using burn severity class inferred from digitized aerial photography (1880 to 2000) and satellite imagery (1973 to 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 data from long term and 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.

WF17023  Accepted 08 August 2017

© CSIRO 2017