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Mapping fire regime ecoregions in California

March 4, 2020

The fire regime is a central framing concept in wildfire science and ecology and describes how a range of wildfire characteristics vary geographically over time. Understanding and mapping fire regimes is important for guiding appropriate management and risk reduction strategies and for informing research on drivers of global change and altered fire patterns. Most efforts to spatially delineate fire regimes have been conducted by identifying natural groupings of fire parameters based on available historical fire data. This can result in classes with similar fire characteristics but wide differences in ecosystem types. We took a different approach and defined fire regime ecoregions for California to better align with ecosystem types, without using fire as part of the definition. We used an unsupervised classification algorithm to segregate the state into spatial clusters based on distinctive biophysical and anthropogenic attributes that drive fire regimes – and then used historical fire data to evaluate the ecoregions. The fire regime ecoregion map corresponded well with the major land cover types of the state and provided clear separation of historical patterns in fire frequency and size, with lower variability in fire severity. This methodology could be used for mapping fire regimes in other regions with limited historical fire data or forecasting future fire regimes based on expected changes in biophysical characteristics.

Publication Year 2020
Title Mapping fire regime ecoregions in California
DOI 10.1071/WF19136
Authors Alexandra D. Syphard, Jon Keeley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Journal of Wildland Fire
Index ID 70209363
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center