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Analyzing fine-scale spatiotemporal drivers of wildfire in a forest landscape model

Ager, Alan A., Barros, Ana M.G., Day, Michelle A., Preisler, Haiganoush K., Spies, Thomas A., Bolte, John
Ecological modelling 2018 v.384 pp. 87-102
fire regime, forests, fuels (fire ecology), humans, landscapes, managers, simulation models, statistical models, wildfires, wildland fire management, Oregon
We developed and applied a wildfire simulation package in the Envision agent-based landscape modelling system. The wildfire package combines statistical modelling of fire occurrence with a high-resolution, mechanistic wildfire spread model that can capture fine scale effects of fire feedbacks and fuel management, and replicate restoration strategies at scales that are meaningful to forest managers. We applied the model to a landscape covering 1.2 million ha of fire prone area in central Oregon, USA where wildland fires are increasingly impacting conservation, amenity values and developed areas. We conducted simulations to examine the effect of human versus natural ignitions on future fire regimes under current restoration programs, and whether contemporary fire regimes observed in the past 20 years are likely to change as result of fire feedbacks and management activities. The ignition prediction model revealed non-linear effects of location and time of year, and distinct spatiotemporal patterns for human versus natural ignitions. Fire rotation interval among replicate simulations varied from 78 to 170 years and changed little over the 50-yr simulation, suggesting a stable but highly variable and uncertain future fire regime. Interestingly, the potential for fire-on-fire feedbacks was higher for human versus natural ignitions due to human ignition hotspots within the study area. We compare the methods and findings with other forest landscape simulation model (FLSM) studies and discuss future application of FLSMs to address emerging wildfire management and policy issues on fire frequent forests in the western US.