Are wildfires that burn now so different from the past? Will burned ecosystems be so altered that they become different ecosystems? These questions motivate scientists to learn about fire regimes of the past and find out what drove fire behavior. Managers use this information to characterize disturbance regimes and assess how ecosystems are functioning now compared to the past. Documenting the natural range of variation of disturbance in an area is a required element of land management planning. Often that information comes from fire scar studies. Scientists sample scars from many trees that have been injured but not killed by fire in an area and need to easily organize and analyze fire regime information.
We developed the Fire History Analysis and Exploration System (www.fhaes.org), a system of Java applications for the user to input data and calculate statistics used to present fire regime characteristics. FHAES derived from an earlier program (FHX2), but is improved by the development of new statistics and with results being easily transported to spreadsheets and GIS systems.
FHAES can be used to analyze any event data, like insect infestations or floods. And this information can come from a variety of sources, not just from tree rings.
We continue to add new statistical analyses, working with student programmers at the University of Wisconsin who write apps in class and compete to have their app used in FHAES.