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Fire history of a naturally fragmented landscape in central Oregon

Fire history of a naturally fragmented landscape in central Oregon

Canadian journal of forest research 36(5): 1108-1120

We examined the fire history of 11 forest isolates surrounded by lava flows (kipukas) in central Oregon to determine historical differences in fire regimes between kipukas and the surrounding forest, and the role of spatial and environmental variables in fire occurrence. Tree-ring analysis and statistical comparisons show that historical agency records underestimate the number of fires based on the incidence of fire scars. Fires occurred more frequently on kipukas, were typically smaller, and were predominantly lightning-initiated. Except for three widespread fires, fires on kipukas and in the surrounding forest were largely asynchronous. The mean fire-return interval (MFRI) in the surrounding forest decreased following Euro-American settlement and increased on the kipukas with spot-fire removal. This suggests either that forest management and fire exclusion in the surrounding forest decreased fire spread to the kipukas, or that most fires originated on the kipukas. MFRI correlates strongly with distance to the nearest kipuka and a distance-weighted isolation index. The number of fires correlates with elevation change and distance to the nearest kipuka. Fire in naturally fragmented landscapes is influenced by the spatial arrangement of patches, environmental conditions, and human activities. Reconstructing fire histories from forest isolates in the context of their mainland counterparts may have methodological advantages and theoretical implications for forested landscapes characterized by human-imposed insularity.

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Accession: 004515383

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DOI: 10.1139/x06-004

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