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Drivers of forest fire occurrence in the cultural landscape of Central Europe

Adámek, Martin, Jankovská, Zuzana, Hadincová, Věroslava, Kula, Emanuel, Wild, Jan
Landscape ecology 2018 v.33 no.11 pp. 2031-2045
botanical composition, cultural landscape, ecosystems, environmental factors, fire ecology, forest fires, forestry development, geographic information systems, humans, lightning, models, topography, Central European region, Czech Republic
CONTEXT: Wildfires in temperate Central Europe have traditionally been perceived as a mere consequence of human activity without any relevance to natural forest development, despite their documented frequent occurrence. As a result, knowledge about local fire ecology and patterns of wildfire occurrence in the landscape is lacking. OBJECTIVES: We aimed to reveal the factors influencing the spatial distribution of forest fires in the Czech Republic as a model area for the broader region. Specifically, we aimed to (1) find out which factors influence the occurrence and frequency of the forest fires at the country scale and in a selected fire-prone region; (2) examine the relationship of lightning strikes and their polarity with wildfire incidence; (3) identify the conditions determining areas with naturally driven fire-prone conditions. METHODS: We took data on 15,985 wildfire records and explored their spatial distribution using GIS layers of human, topographic, climatic and vegetation composition factors. We analysed the data using GLM and hierarchical partitioning methods. RESULTS: Wildfire occurrence was controlled mostly by environmental factors whereas wildfire frequency was strongly driven by human factors. In the selected fire-prone region, the effect of environmental factors was even more pronounced and wildfire frequency was also driven, albeit marginally, by lightning strikes of positive polarity. CONCLUSION: The pattern of wildfire occurrence in the Czech Republic was similar also to those from regions where wildfire is considered a natural part of local ecosystems. We identified the areas with natural fire-prone conditions which probably led to the development of local fire-adapted ecosystems.