Fire Severity in a Large Fire in a Pinus pinaster Forest is Highly Predictable from Burning Conditions, Stand Structure, and Topography

A Notice of Disputed Authorship to this article was published on 06 June 2018

Abstract

Identifying what factors control fire severity in large fires is critical for understanding fire impacts and planning pre- and post-fire management. Here, we determined the role of pre-fire stand structure, directional topography, and burning conditions on fire severity in a large fire (12,697 ha) in Central Spain that burned a Pinus pinaster forest on July 2005. Fire severity was estimated using RdNBR based on Landsat 5 TM images. Forest stand structure was reconstructed by systematically sampling the burned area (n = 236). Burning conditions were established using weather information and a map of fire progression, based on which fire rate of spread and propagation direction were calculated. Topographic features in the direction of the fire-front were derived from a digital elevation model. Boosted regression tree (BRT) analysis was employed to relate each group of variables or the entire set to RdNBR. Fire severity was best explained by burning conditions (cross-validation correlation [CVC] 0.56), followed by pre-fire stand structure (CVC 0.34), and directional topography (CVC 0.17). Combining the three sets of variables, CVC increased to 0.71. Higher fire severity occurred in areas burning upslope, with high fire rate of spread, with heterogeneous and dense stands of P. pinaster and Quercus pyrenaica in the understory, receiving high solar radiation, among other characteristics. Fire severity was the result of interactive relationships between burning conditions, pre-fire stand structure, and directional topography. Thus, determining factors controlling fire severity from static stand structure or topography, as is often done, may not be appropriate.

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Acknowledgments

This paper was supported by the FP7 of the EC (FUME Project, GA 243888), Caja Guadalajara (CONV080174), and Junta de Castilla-La Mancha (PREG07-002). We thank A. Chavarría and M. Aguilar Larrucea (Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha) for facilitating the isochrones map of the Riba de Saelices fire; L. Díaz Guerra, R. G. Mateo, C. Morales del Molino, and C. Recio for their assistance with field sampling; and to Lara A. Arroyo for her comments on earlier versions of this work. We thank P. Morgan for her constructive review and valuable comments.

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Correspondence to Olga Viedma or José M. Moreno.

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Olga Viedma: Performed research, analyzed data, and wrote the paper. Juan Quesada: Analyzed data and did the field campaign. Ivan Torres: Performed research and analyzed data. Angela De Santis: Performed research and analyzed data. Jose M. Moreno: Conceived and designed the study and wrote the paper

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Viedma, O., Quesada, J., Torres, I. et al. Fire Severity in a Large Fire in a Pinus pinaster Forest is Highly Predictable from Burning Conditions, Stand Structure, and Topography. Ecosystems 18, 237–250 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-014-9824-y

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Keywords

  • burn severity
  • decision trees
  • fire management
  • fire weather
  • landscape-structure
  • pine woodlands
  • RdNBR