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Project ID: 14-3-01-7

Year: 2014

Date Started: 08/25/2014

Ending Date:  05/13/2016

Title: Spatially-explicit impacts of climate on past, present, and future fire regimes in Alaskan boreal forest and tundra ecosystems

Project Proposal Abstract: Northern high latitude climates are rapidly changing nearly faster than the rest of the globe, suggesting that fire regimes in these ecosystems may be particularly vulnerable to future change. In Alaska, key JFSP research priorities are to understand climate linkages to past and present natural fire regimes, and current and future fire regime departures from historic conditions. As part of my approved dissertation research I have developed a spatially-explicit modeling approach to quantify the multi-decadal controls of Alaskan fire regimes, which circumvent the limitations of current fire regime models in Alaska. Specifically, I have modeled the multi-decadal controls of fire over the past half century to predict the spatially-explicit probability of burning at multi-decadal time scales and 2-kmĀ¬2 resolution. Results from this research highlight the ability of climate to explain significant spatial variability in historical fire occurrence. Models reveal that summer temperature and annual moisture deficit interact to control fire at multi-decadal time scales, and that the warmest, driest regions of Alaska have the highest probability of fire occurrence. Models further reveal Alaskan fire-climate relationships are strongly non-linear with distinct thresholds, implying potential for significant increases in the probability of fire occurrence, if thresholds are surpassed in the future. Together, these results suggest a system that is vulnerable to a warmer future, where fire regime changes may be quick and dramatic. Models from my dissertation have been trained and validated on fire and climate data from the past 60 years, but their ability to project fire regime responses given different climate conditions has yet to be tested. To confidently use these models to project fire regimes throughout the 21st-century, these models would ideally be calibrated and validated against fire regime and climatic variability that extends beyond of the past 60 years. For example, over the past 1,000 years climate has varied significantly, including the Medieval Climate Anomaly (ca. 850 A.D.-1250 A.D.) when temperatures were warmer than during most of the 20th century. To construct models that can accurately project future fire regime changes under 21st-century climate change, the proposed research would take existing models from my dissertation, calibrate and validate them over the past 1,000 years, and then project future fire throughout for the 21st century in Alaska based on these newly calibrated models. My approved dissertation topic is focused on understanding fire regime controls in Alaskan boreal forest and tundra ecosystems, and using this understanding to better anticipate fire regime changes given future climate change. The proposed work would produce models calibrated and validated under a wider range of climatic conditions, providing models that are better able to project fire regime responses under 21st-century climate change. By modeling spatially-explicit fire regime responses under 21st-century climate change, the proposed work would directly benefit Alaskan fire and land managers by highlighting regions across Alaska that may be most vulnerable to future climate change, allowing for more effective long term planning. The proposed work is directly aligned with goals of the GRIN Award by focusing on climate change and fire, and with current JFSP research priorities in Alaska by investigating past, present, and future fire-climate linkages. Results from this work would be disseminated through a presentation at national conferences, a webinar with the Alaska Fire Science Consortium, and at least one peer reviewed publication.

Principal Investigator: Philip E. Higuera

Agency/Organization: University of Idaho

Branch or Dept: College of Natural Resources


Other Project Collaborators

Type

Name

Agency/Organization

Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Polly J. Knutson

University of Idaho

Office of Sponsored Programs

Budget Contact

Dan D. LaHann

University of Idaho

Office of Sponsored Programs

Stage 2 Lead Reviewer

Sara H. Brown

New Mexico Highlands University

Natural Resources Management

Stage 2 Reviewer

Fernando Garcia Menendez

Georgia Institute of Technology

School of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Stage 2 Reviewer

Brian J. Harvey

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department of Zoology

Stage 2 Reviewer

Jeffrey M. Kane

Humboldt State University

Department of Forestry & Wildland Resources

Stage 2 Reviewer

Monique E. Rocca

Colorado State University

Department of Forest, Rangeland & Watershed Stewardship

Student Investigator

Adam M. Young

University of Idaho

Department of Forest, Rangeland and Fire Sciences


Project Locations

Consortium

Alaska


Level

State

Agency

Unit

STATE

AK

MULTIPLE


Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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