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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 18(8)

Characterization of wildfire regimes in Canadian boreal terrestrial ecosystems

Yueyang Jiang A E, Qianlai Zhuang B, Mike D. Flannigan C, John M. Little D

A Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
B Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Department of Agronomy, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.
C Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Great Lakes Forestry Centre, 1219 Queen St East, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 2E5, Canada.
D Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre, 5320-122 Street, Edmonton, AB, T5H 3S5, Canada.
E Corresponding author. Email: jiang5@purdue.edu
 
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Abstract

Wildfire is a major disturbance in boreal terrestrial ecosystems. Characterizing fire regimes and projecting fire recurrence intervals for different biomes are important in managing those ecosystems and quantifying carbon dynamics of those ecosystems. This study used Canadian wildfire datasets, 1980–1999, to characterize relationships between number of fires and burned area for 13 ecozones and to calculate wildfire recurrence intervals in each ecozone. For the study period, wildfires were found to follow power–law relationships between frequency densities (number of fires normalized to unit bins) and burned areas in all ecozones. Power–law frequency–area relationships also held for both anthropogenic fires and natural fires in the 1980s and 1990s. For each Canadian ecozone using the parameters of the power–law frequency–area distributions, fire recurrence intervals were then calculated for wildfires equal to or larger than a given size of burned area. Fire recurrence intervals ranged from 1 to 32 years for burned areas >2 km2, and from 1 to 100 years for burned areas >10 km2 in every 10 000-km2 spatial area for each ecozone. The information obtained through characterizing the wildfires and the fire recurrence intervals calculated in this study will provide guidance to wildfire risk managers throughout Canada. The findings of this study will also be a benefit to future efforts in quantifying carbon dynamics in Canadian boreal terrestrial ecosystems.

Keywords: carbon dynamics, ecozone, fire management, power–law frequency–area statistics, recurrence interval.


   
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