Modeling Future Ecosystem Resilience Trajectory Post the Kenow Fire in Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

Authors: Dawna Cerney*, Youngstown State University
Topics: Mountain Environments, Biogeography, Earth Science
Keywords: Ecosystem Resilience, Forest Fire, Burn, Modeling, Climate Change
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 41
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Spatial configuration of wildfire burn characteristics combined with post fire vegetation pattern analysis show potential temporal trajectories of landscape scale ecosystem restructuring and resilience characteristics. The 2017 Kenow Fire in Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada burned through five ecosystems as one of the fastest, hottest forest fires in the North American cordillera to date. Overall the burned area is over 90 times larger than typical historic burn sizes for the region. The topographic complexity of location resulted in both typical and atypical spatial vegetation patterns through all five ecosystem communities. Several areas of various sizes, configurations, and locations of ecological structures were left unburned. Areas with typical burn intensity exhibit characteristic historic post fire burn vegetation recovery across several plant associations. Atypical revegetation of areas include locations where hot or intense burns are low in occurrence, have lost soil organics, resulting in setting the seral stages to pioneer. Other atypical areas are undergoing revegetation with invasive species, namely horseweed (Conyza canadensis). Combined fire severity, topography, and projected climate trends indicate novel ecological communities may emerge across the burned area. Initial spatial patterning of vegetation shows greater community heterogeneity than the pre-fire landscape. Modeling ecological spatial patterns for the post fire community structures under projected climate conditions show future ecological resilience structures shifting towards greater extent of grasslands. This fire offers a predictive lens into future ecosystem structural changes emerging from high severity fires within the greater part of this region in the cordillera.

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