Role of mixed-severity fire in the shifting pattern of landscape heterogeneity after prolonged fire suppression

Authors: Asha Paudel*, Florida Atlantic University, Department of Geosciences, Scott H. Markwith, Florida Atlantic University, Department of Geosciences
Topics: Biogeography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Land Use and Land Cover Change
Keywords: disturbance, habitat fragmentation, patch dynamics, landscape heterogeneity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 7
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
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Frequent low- to moderate-severity fire is important for maintaining ecosystem diversity of mixed conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada Range, CA. Prolonged fire suppression led to ingrowth of conifers seedlings, converting the open heterogeneous forest structure into uniformly dense and layered forest. Fuel build-up and increasing drought and extreme heat frequencies are increasing the threat of stand replacing fire. However, a clear understanding of vegetation dynamics at various spatial and temporal scales due to fire is lacking. Our research question was: Does repeated mixed-severity fire in mixed conifer forests reduce landscape-scale patch heterogeneity due to extensive high-severity fire converting forest to shrubland? The study area consists of mosaics of burned and unburned patches within Lassen and Plumas National Forests, CA. We used secondary geospatial landcover data classified based on cover type after multiple fires from 2000-2014 and before any fires from 1991-2000. We calculated various landscape metrics using FRAGSTATS for comparison before and after fires. Results from this study provide insights concerning vegetation pattern change due to frequent large fire events, and which parts of landscape should be prioritized for management actions.

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