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Fire Ecology of the North American Mediterranean-Climate Zone

Formally Refereed
Authors: Hugh D. Safford, Ramona J. Butz, Gabrielle N. Bohlman, Michelle Coppoletta, Becky L. Estes, Shana E. Gross, Kyle E. Merriam, Marc D. Meyer, Nicole A. Molinari, Amarina Wuenschel
Year: 2021
Type: Book Chapter
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
Source: Fire Ecology and Management: Past, Present, and Future of US Forested Ecosystems


North America’s Mediterranean climate zone (NAMCZ) includes most of California, southwestern Oregon, a slice of western Nevada, and northwestern Baja California, Mexico. Climatically, the world’s Mediterranean climate regions are unique because the wet season is concurrent with the cold season, and the warm, dry season is akin to an annual drought of 3–7 months. Most of the NAMCZ receives sufficient precipitation in the winter and early spring to produce a crop of fuel just in time for the hot, dry summer. Vegetation in the NAMCZ is among the most fire-prone and fire-shaped on the continent. The NAMCZ supports all of the major fire regime types represented in North America, but most of the modern landscape supports either the chaparral type (moderate frequency, high-severity), or the moderate frequency/“mixed” severity type including the extensive yellow pine and mixed conifer forest type, which before logging, reduced human ignitions and fire suppression supported a high frequency, low-severity fire regime. We compare historical (pre-Euro-American settlement) and modern fire regimes in the NAMCZ and discuss current pyrological and ecological trends, ecosystem management, conservation and restoration, and the future of fire and fuels management in a time of rapid global change.


California, Mediterranean-type climate, Fire regimes, Fire management


Safford, Hugh D.; Butz, Ramona J.; Bohlman, Gabrielle N.; Coppoletta, Michelle; Estes, Becky L.; Gross, Shana E.; Merriam, Kyle E.; Meyer, Marc D.; Molinari, Nicole A.; Wuenschel, Amarina. 2021. Fire Ecology of the North American Mediterranean-Climate Zone. In: Fire Ecology and Management:  Past, Present, and Future of US Forested Ecosystems. Volume 39, Part of the Managing Forest Ecosystems series. Springer. Chapter 9.