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

Analysis of Alaskan burn severity patterns using remotely sensed data

Paul A. Duffy A E , Justin Epting B , Jonathan M. Graham C , T. Scott Rupp A and A. David McGuire D

A Ecological Dynamics Modeling Group, Department of Forest Sciences, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA.

B Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International, Washington, DC 20036, USA.

C Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

D US Geological Survey, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 16(3) 277-284
Submitted: 14 March 2006  Accepted: 17 October 2006   Published: 3 July 2007


Wildland fire is the dominant large-scale disturbance mechanism in the Alaskan boreal forest, and it strongly influences forest structure and function. In this research, patterns of burn severity in the Alaskan boreal forest are characterised using 24 fires. First, the relationship between burn severity and area burned is quantified using a linear regression. Second, the spatial correlation of burn severity as a function of topography is modelled using a variogram analysis. Finally, the relationship between vegetation type and spatial patterns of burn severity is quantified using linear models where variograms account for spatial correlation. These results show that: 1) average burn severity increases with the natural logarithm of the area of the wildfire, 2) burn severity is more variable in topographically complex landscapes than in flat landscapes, and 3) there is a significant relationship between burn severity and vegetation type in flat landscapes but not in topographically complex landscapes. These results strengthen the argument that differential flammability of vegetation exists in some boreal landscapes of Alaska. Additionally, these results suggest that through feedbacks between vegetation and burn severity, the distribution of forest vegetation through time is likely more stable in flat terrain than it is in areas with more complex topography.

Additional keywords: Alaska fire, fire variograms, normalised burn ratio, spatial ANOVA.


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