Changes in fire regimes are expected across North America in response to anticipated global climatic changes. Potential changes in large-scale vegetation patterns are predicted as a result of altered fire frequencies. A new vegetation classification was developed by condensing Kuchler potential natural vegetation types into aggregated types that are relatively homogeneous with respect to fire regime. Transition rules were developed to predict potential changes from one vegetation type to another because of increased fire frequency. In general, vegetation currently associated with warmer or drier climates could replace existing vegetation in most biomes. Exceptions are subalpine forests and woodlands at the Arctic treeline, which are predicted to become treeless. The transition rules provide an ecological perspective on possible new configurations of vegetation types, a set of constraints for steady-state models, and a potential method of calibration for dynamic models of large-scale vegetation change.
McKenzie, Donald; Peterson, David L.; Alvarado, Ernesto. 1996. Predicting the effect of fire on large-scale vegetation patterns in North America. Res. Pap. PNW-RP-489. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 38 p