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

Comparing selected fire regime condition class (FRCC) and LANDFIRE vegetation model results with tree-ring data

Tyson L. Swetnam A and Peter M. Brown B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Natural Resources and the Environment, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.

B Rocky Mountain Tree Ring Research, 2901 Moore Lane, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 19(1) 1-13
Submitted: 3 January 2008  Accepted: 3 June 2009   Published: 5 February 2010


Fire Regime Condition Class (FRCC) has been developed as a nationally consistent interagency method in the US to assess degree of departure between historical and current fire regimes and vegetation structural conditions across differing vegetation types. Historical and existing vegetation map data also are being developed for the nationwide LANDFIRE project to aid in FRCC assessments. Here, we compare selected FRCC and LANDFIRE vegetation characteristics derived from simulation modeling with similar characteristics reconstructed from tree-ring data collected from 11 forested sites in Utah. Reconstructed reference conditions based on trees present in 1880 compared with reference conditions modeled by the Vegetation Dynamics Development Tool for individual Biophysical Settings (BpS) used in FRCC and LANDFIRE assessments showed significance relationships for ponderosa pine, aspen, and mixed-conifer BpS but not for spruce–fir, piñon–juniper, or lodgepole pine BpS. LANDFIRE map data were found to be ~58% accurate for BpS and ~60% accurate for existing vegetation types. Results suggest that limited sampling of age-to-size relationships by different species may be needed to help refine reference condition definitions used in FRCC assessments, and that more empirical data are needed to better parameterize FRCC vegetation models in especially low-frequency fire types.

Additional keywords: reference conditions, successional classes, Vegetation Dynamics Development Tool (VDDT).


We are especially grateful to Emily Heyerdahl, Stan Kitchen, and Marc Weber for sharing data from the tree-ring project in Utah. The Utah project was funded by the Joint Fire Science Program, Fishlake National Forest, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Utah Bureau of Land Management, and Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research. We thank Brendan Ward, Kathy Schon, and Jim Menakis with the LANDFIRE project for sharing their expertise and data for this research. Phil Guertin, Steve Yool, Tom Swetnam, Wendel Hann, Steve Barrett, and three anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments on the manuscript. This research was funded by the National Interagency Fuels Technology Transfer Team that is responsible for development and updating of FRCC methods and vegetation models.


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