Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub


    Fire refugia, sometimes referred to as fire islands, shadows, skips, residuals, or fire remnants, are an important element of the burn mosaic, but we lack a quantitative framework that links observations of fire refugia from different environmental contexts. Here, we develop and test a conceptual model for how predictability of fire refugia varies according to topographic complexity and fire weather conditions. Refugia were quantified as areas unburned or burned at comparatively low severity based on remotely sensed burn severity data. We assessed the relationship between refugia and a suite of terrain-related explanatory metrics by fitting a collection of boosted regression tree models. The models were developed for seven study fires that burned in conifer-dominated forested landscapes of the Western Cordillera of Canada between 2001 and 2014. We fit nine models, each for distinct levels of fire weather and terrain ruggedness. Our framework revealed that the predictability and abundance of fire refugia varied among these environmental settings. We observed highest predictability under moderate fire weather conditions and moderate terrain ruggedness (ROC-AUC = 0.77), and lowest predictability in flatter landscapes and under high fire weather conditions (ROC-AUC = 0.63–0.68). Catchment slope, local aspect, relative position, topographic wetness, topographic convergence, and local slope all contributed to discriminating where refugia occur but the relative importance of these topographic controls differed among environments. Our framework allows us to characterize the predictability of contemporary fire refugia across multiple environmental settings and provides important insights for ecosystem resilience, wildfire management, conservation planning, and climate change adaptation.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Krawchuk, Meg A.; Haire, Sandra L.; Coop, Jonathan; Parisien, Marc-Andre; Whitman, Ellen; Chong, Geneva; Miller, Carol. 2016. Topographic and fire weather controls of contemporary fire refugia in forested ecosystems of northwestern North America. Ecosphere. 7(12): e01632.


    Google Scholar


    burn mosaic, burn severity, fire refugia, fire weather, island, predictability, remnant, topography, topo-refugia, unburned, wildfire

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page