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The Influence of Fire Weather and Land Use on the Fire Activity of the Lake Abitibi Area, Eastern Canada

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The fire history of two adjacent regions of the boreal forest, one characterized by logging (Ontario—510,000 ha) and the other by small scale agricultural activities (Quebec—140,000 ha), was studied before and after these regions were opened up to settlement in 1916. From a review of provincial forest fire records and the assessment of the age of fire-initiated forest stands, it appears that large but rare fires occurred during the presettlement period on both sides of the border. After 1916, due to slash and burn activities, the agricultural region (Que) had proportionally about twice the burned areas and ten times more fires than the forestry region (Ont). Despite differences in population density, road network, and land use, fire size class occurrence did not differ between landscapes over time. However, the occurrence of fires larger than 100 ha, considering three development phases (1916–1939; 1940–1969; 1970–1998), decreased in both regions from settlement to the present, particularly during the late phase (1970–1998) in the agricultural region. An analysis of fluctuations in the Canadian forest Fire Weather Index system (FWI), a rating of fire danger severity, showed major climatic stresses at the beginning of the century (1916–1924), followed by a decrease in the occurrence of extreme FWI values. Combined with the impact of climate, which affected the annual area burned and the number of large fires in both landscapes, the results suggest that the landscape fragmentation, the increase in the percentage of deciduous trees over time and/or effective fire detection by residents led to a decrease in the number of fires larger than 100 ha on the agricultural side for the late phase (1970–1998). FOR. SCI. 49(4):509–521.

Keywords: FWI; Settlement; environmental management; fire size; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; suppression

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: Groupe de Recherche en E´cologie Forestière Inter-universitaire and Département des sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 8888, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3C 3P8, 514-987-3000 # 2539 c1000@er.uqam.ca 2: Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre, 1055 du P.E.P.S., P.O. Box 3800 Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Canada, G1V 4C7, Phone: 418-648-5829; Fax: 418-648-5849 sgauthier@cfl.forestry.ca 3: Chaire industrielle CRSNG-UQAT-UQAM en aménagement forestier durable, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, C.P. 700, Rouyn-Noranda, Québec, Canada, J9X 5E4, Phone: 819-762-0971, ext. 2347; Fax: 819-797-4727 Bergeron.yves@uqam.ca

Publication date: August 1, 2003

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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