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Mixed-severity fire regimes in dry forests of southern interior British Columbia, Canada

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Abstract:

Historical fire severity is poorly characterized for dry forests in the interior west of North America. We inferred a multicentury history of fire severity from tree rings in Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca (Beissn.) Franco) – ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex P. Lawson & C. Lawson) forests in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. In 2 ha plots distributed systematically over 1105 ha, we determined the dates of fire scars, indicators of low-severity fire, from 125 trees and inferred dates of even-aged cohorts, potential indicators of high-severity fire, from establishment dates of 1270 trees. Most (76%) of the 41 plots contained fire-scarred trees with a mean plot-composite fire scar interval of 21 years (1700–1900). Most (76%) also contained one or two cohorts. At the plot scale, we inferred that the fire regime at most plots was of mixed severity through time (66%) and at the remaining plots of low (20%), high (10%), or unknown (4%) severity through time. We suggest that across our study area, the fire regime was mixed severity over the past several centuries, with low-severity fires most common and often extensive but small, high-severity disturbances also occasionally occurred. Our results present strong evidence for the importance of mixed-severity fire regimes in which low-severity fires dominate in interior Douglas-fir – ponderosa pine forests in western Canada.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/x11-160

Publication date: January 30, 2012

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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