Anticipating future forest-fire regimes under changing climate requires that scientists and natural resource managers understand the factors that control fire across space and time. Fire scars—proxy records of fires, formed in the growth rings of long-lived trees—provide an annually accurate window into past low-severity fire regimes. In western North America, networks of the fire-scar records spanning centuries to millennia now include hundreds to thousands of trees sampled across hundreds to many thousands of hectares. Development of these local and regional fire-scar networks has created a new data type for ecologists interested in landscape and climate regulation of ecosystem processes—which, for example, may help to explain why forest fires are widespread during certain years but not others. These data also offer crucial reference information on fire as a dynamic landscape process for use in ecosystem management, especially when managing for forest structure and resilience to climate change.
Falk, Donald A.; Heyerdahl, Emily K.; Brown, Peter M.; Farris, Calvin; Fule, Peter Z.; McKenzie, Donald; Swetnam, Thomas W.; Taylor, Alan H.; Van Horne, Megan L. 2011. Multi-scale controls of historical forest-fire regimes: new insights from fire-scar networks. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 9: 446-454.