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A probabilistic view of chaparral and forest fire regimes in southern California and northern Baja CaliforniaAuthor(s): Richard A. Minnich; Ernesto Franco-Vizcaíno
Source: In: Bytnerowicz, Andrzej; Arbaugh, Michael; Andersen, Christian; Riebau, Allen. 2009. Wildland Fires and Air Pollution. Developments in Environmental Science 8. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier. pp. 319-338
Publication Series: Book
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DescriptionFire suppression in industrialized countries encourages massive smoke emissions from high-intensity fires as a result of two inextricably related processes under current suppression policies: the nonrandom occurrence of vegetation fires in extreme weather states and the anomalous accumulation of spatially homogenous fuels. We propose as an organizing idea that the natural long-term cumulative distribution of fires is focused by chance on modal weather states. Thus, while individual fires are each associated with unique combinations of weather and fuel conditions, vegetation mosaics are expressed in self-organized, stable distributions in the size, interval, and frequency of fires. Here we evaluate fire regimes by using spatially explicit data for chaparral and conifer forests and compare southern California (SCA) fire history under suppression with fire history produced by free-running fire (little or no suppression) in neighboring Baja California (BCA), Mexico. In SCA, suppression has reduced the number of fires, while increasing the size of old-growth patch elements and thus the spatial extent of subsequent fires. The selective dousing of fires starts nonrandomly limits extensive burning to rare periods of extreme weather. Free-running fires formerly spread in a broad spectrum of mostly normal weather over spans of months during summer and fall. This long forgotten property of fire regimes in California is still an ongoing property in BCA. Because plant response to perturbations depends on the cumulative effects of plant successions, those who study climatic relationships with fire regimes should consider the long-term dynamics of fuel accumulation as a source of outbreaks in vegetation mosaics. The development of fire management policies by the Mexican authorities should consider continued maintenance of the current fine-grained vegetation mosaic that is resistant to extensive fires.
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CitationMinnich, Richard A.; Franco-Vizcaíno, Ernesto. 2009. A probabilistic view of chaparral and forest fire regimes in southern California and northern Baja California. In: Bytnerowicz, A.; Arbaugh, M.; Andersen, C.; Riebau, A. eds. Wildland Fires and Air Pollution. Developments in Environmental Science. Elsevier. Amsterdam. Vol. 8:339-364. DOI:10.1016/S1474-8177(08)00016-8
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