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Mechanical fuel treatments are a common pre-fire strategy for reducing wildfire hazard that alters fuel structure by converting live canopy fuels to a compacted layer of dead surface fuels. Current knowledge concerning their effectiveness, however, comes primarily from forest-dominated ecosystems. Our objectives were to quantify and compare changes in shrub-dominated chaparral following crushing, mastication, re-mastication and mastication-plus-burning treatments, and to assess treatment longevity. Results from analysis of variance (ANOVA) identified significant differences in all fuel components by treatment type, vegetation type and time since treatment. Live woody fuel components of height, cover and mass were...
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The Highway Fire burned 1680 ha of mixed ponderosa pine–oak–chaparral in the newly created Giant Sequoia National Monument and the adjacent Sequoia National Forest of Fresno County, California in August 2001. The USDA Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) program recommended that portions of the burned forest be seeded with a non-persistent variety of wheat at a density of 157 kg ha–1 (140 lb/ac). The present study compared the vascular plant diversity and cover in seeded and unseeded parts of this burn to evaluate the ecological impact of seeding an alien grass. In the first post-fire growing season, the natural regeneration of unseeded control sites averaged ~55% ground surface covered. Wheat...
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Measurements of post-fire sediment erosion, transport, and deposition collected within 2 years of a wildfire were compiled from the published literature (19272007) for sites across the western United States. Annual post-fire sediment yields were computed and grouped into four measurement methods (hillslope point and plot measurements, channel measurements of suspended-sediment and sediment erosion or deposition volumes). Post-fire sediment yields for each method were then grouped into eight different rainfall regimes. Mean sediment yield from channels (240 t ha-1) was significantly greater than from hillslopes (82 t ha-1). This indicated that on the time scale of wildfire (10100 years) channels were the primary...
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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...
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The San Francisco East Bay landscape is a rich mosaic of grasslands, shrublands and woodlands that is experiencing losses of grassland due to colonization by shrubs and succession towards woodland associations. The instability of these grasslands is apparently due to their disturbance-dependent nature coupled with 20th century changes in fire and grazing activity. This study uses fire history records to determine the potential for fire in this region and for evidence of changes in the second half of the 20th century that would account for shrubland expansion. This region has a largely anthropogenic fire regime with no lightning-ignited fires in most years. Fire suppression policy has not excluded fire from this...
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Sagebrush steppe of North America is considered highly imperilled, in part owing to increased fire frequency. Sagebrush ecosystems support numerous species, and it is important to understand those factors that affect rates of post-fire sagebrush recovery. We explored recovery of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp.wyomingensis) and basin big sagebrush (A. tridentata ssp. tridentata) communities following fire in the northern Columbia Basin (Washington, USA). We sampled plots across 16 fires that burned in big sagebrush communities from 5 to 28 years ago, and also sampled nearby unburned locations. Mixed-effects models demonstrated that density of large–mature big sagebrush plants and percentage cover...
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Ash plays an important role in controlling runoff and erosion processes after wildfire and has frequently been hypothesised to clog soil pores and reduce infiltration. Yet evidence for clogging is incomplete, as research has focussed on identifying the presence of ash in soil; the actual flow processes remain unknown. We conducted laboratory infiltration experiments coupled with microscope observations in pure sands, saturated hydraulic conductivity analysis, and interaction energy calculations, to test whether ash can clog pores (i.e. block pores such that infiltration is hampered and ponding occurs). Although results confirmed previous observations of ash washing into pores, clogging was not observed in the pure...
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Wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity as a result of climate change in many ecosystems; however, effects of altered disturbance regimes on wildlife remain poorly quantified. Here, we leverage an unexpected opportunity to investigate how fire affects the occupancy and abundance of a climate-sensitive habitat specialist, the American pika (Ochotona princeps). We determine the effects of a fire on microclimates within talus and explore habitat factors promoting persistence and abundance in fire-affected habitat. During the fire, temperatures in talus interstices remained below 19°C, suggesting that animals could have survived in situ. Within 2 years, pikas were widely distributed throughout burned areas...
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Interpretations of post-fire condition and rates of vegetation recovery can influence management priorities, actions and perception of latent risks from landslides and floods. In this study, we used the Waldo Canyon fire (2012, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA) as a case study to explore how a time series (2011–2016) of high-resolution images can be used to delineate burn extent and severity, as well as quantify post-fire vegetation recovery. We applied an object-based approach to map burn severity and vegetation recovery using Worldview-2, Worldview-3 and QuickBird-2 imagery. The burned area was classified as 51% high, 20% moderate and 29% low burn-severity. Across the burn extent, the shrub cover class showed a...
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Examining the relationship of El Niño to weather patterns in Alaska shows wide climate variances that depend on the teleconnection between the tropics and the northern latitudes. However, the weather patterns exhibited in Alaska during and just after moderate to strong El Niño episodes are generally consistent: above normal temperature and precipitation along the Alaskan coast, and above normal temperature and below normal precipitation in the interior, especially through the winter. The warm, dry conditions in the Alaskan interior increase summer wildfire potential. Statistics on the area burned since 1940 show that 15 out of 17 of the biggest fire years occurred during a moderate to strong El Niño episode. These...
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Human land use practices, altered climates, and shifting forest and fire management policies have increased the frequency of large wildfires several-fold. Mitigation of potential fire behaviour and fire severity have increasingly been attempted through pre-fire alteration of wildland fuels using mechanical treatments and prescribed fires. Despite annual treatment of more than a million hectares of land, quantitative assessments of the effectiveness of existing fuel treatments at reducing the size of actual wildfires or how they might alter the risk of burning across landscapes are currently lacking. Here, we present a method for estimating spatial probabilities of burning as a function of extant fuels treatments...
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Managers require accurate models to predict post-fire tree mortality to plan prescribed fire treatments and examine their effectiveness. Here we assess the performance of a common post-fire tree mortality model with an independent dataset of 11 tree species from 13 National Park Service units in the western USA. Overall model discrimination was generally strong, but performance varied considerably among species and sites. The model tended to have higher sensitivity (proportion of correctly classified dead trees) and lower specificity (proportion of correctly classified live trees) for many species, indicating an overestimation of mortality. Variation in model accuracy (percentage of live and dead trees correctly...
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The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of fire retardantchemical (Phos-Chek G75-F*) and fire suppressant foam (Silv-Ex) application,alone and in combination with fire, on Great Basin shrub steppe vegetation. Wemeasured growth, resprouting, flowering, and incidence of galling insects onChrysothamnus viscidiflorusandArtemisia tridentata. These characteristics were notaffected by any chemical treatment. We measured community characteristics,including species richness, evenness, and diversity, and number of stems ofwoody and herbaceous plants in riparian and upland plots. Of these characteristics, only species richness and number ofstems/m2 clearly responded to the chemicaltreatments, and the response...
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Burn severity products created by the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) project were used to analyse historical trends in burn severity. Using a severity metric calculated by modelling the cumulative distribution of differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) and Relativized dNBR (RdNBR) data, we examined burn area and burn severity of 4893 historical fires (1984–2010) distributed across the conterminous US (CONUS) and mapped by MTBS. Yearly mean burn severity values (weighted by area), maximum burn severity metric values, mean area of burn, maximum burn area and total burn area were evaluated within 27 US National Vegetation Classification macrogroups. Time series assessments of burned area and severity were...
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LANDFIRE is a 5-year, multipartner project producing consistent and comprehensive maps and data describing vegetation, wildland fuel, fire regimes and ecological departure from historical conditions across the United States. It is a shared project between the wildland fire management and research and development programs of the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service and US Department of the Interior. LANDFIRE meets agency and partner needs for comprehensive, integrated data to support landscape-level fire management planning and prioritization, community and firefighter protection, effective resource allocation, and collaboration between agencies and the public. The LANDFIRE data production framework is interdisciplinary,...
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Continental-scale studies of western North America have attributed recent increases in annual area burned and fire size to a warming climate, but these studies have focussed on large fires and have left the issues of fire severity and ignition frequency unaddressed. Lightning ignitions, any of which could burn a large area given appropriate conditions for fire spread, could be the first indication of more frequent fire. We examined the relationship between snowpack and the ignition and size of fires that occurred in Yosemite National Park, California (area 3027 km2), between 1984 and 2005. During this period, 1870 fires burned 77 718 ha. Decreased spring snowpack exponentially increased the number of lightning-ignited...
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Wind turbine-induced fires at a wind energy facility in California, USA, provided an opportunity to study the before and after effects of fire on a population of protected Agassiz’s desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) in the Sonoran Desert, a species and ecosystem poorly adapted to fire. We compared annual activity areas (AAs) of tortoises in 2011 and 2013, before and after two 2012 fires, with those of tortoises in adjacent areas unaffected by the same fires. Tortoises in both AAs affected by fire or unaffected by fire occupied the same general AAs in 2013, after the fires, as they did in 2011, before the fires. Some tortoises had both their 2011 and 2013 AAs completely or almost completely within the areas burned...