, Volume 197, Issue 2, pp 299-316
Date: 21 Nov 2007

Spatial and temporal variability in fire occurrence within the Las Bayas Forestry Reserve, Durango, Mexico

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Abstract

Patterns of fire occurrence within the Las Bayas Forestry Reserve, Mexico are analyzed in relation to variability in climate, topography, and human land-use. Significantly more fires with shorter fire return intervals occurred from 1900 to 1950 than from 1950 to 2001. However, the frequency of widespread fire years (25% filter) was unchanged over time, as widespread fires were synchronized by climatic extremes. Widespread fire years occurred during dry years that lagged wet years. Widespread fire years lagged the negative El Niño phase (wet winters) of the Southern Oscillation by 1 year, but were not synchronized by the positive, La Niña phase (dry winters) of the Southern Oscillation. The smaller, localized fires that occurred more frequently during the first half of the 20th century were attributed to changes in land tenure with the introduction of the ejido system in the early 1950s. Ejido management strategies lowered fire frequencies by suppressing fires and reducing anthropogenic fires. There were likely more ignitions prior to the arrival of the ejido system as fires were ignited by lightning and indigenous people. As the movement of indigenous peoples across the landscape has been restricted by changes in land tenure, numbers of human-ignited fires subsequently decreased post 1950. After 1950, fires occurred less frequently, were more synchronized, and more restricted to years of extreme climate.