, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp 1141–1155 | Cite as

Contributions of Ignitions, Fuels, and Weather to the Spatial Patterns of Burn Probability of a Boreal Landscape

  • Marc-André ParisienEmail author
  • Sean A. Parks
  • Carol Miller
  • Meg A. Krawchuk
  • Mark Heathcott
  • Max A. Moritz


The spatial pattern of fire observed across boreal landscapes is the outcome of complex interactions among components of the fire environment. We investigated how the naturally occurring patterns of ignitions, fuels, and weather generate spatial pattern of burn probability (BP) in a large and highly fire-prone boreal landscape of western Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park. This was achieved by producing a high-resolution map of BP using a fire simulation model that models the ignition and spread of individual fires for the current state of the study landscape (that is, the ‘control’). Then, to extract the effect of the variability in ignitions, fuels, and weather on spatial BP patterns, we subtracted the control BP map to those produced by “homogenizing” a single environmental factor of interest (that is, the ‘experimental treatments’). This yielded maps of spatial residuals that represent the spatial BP patterns for which the heterogeneity of each factor of interest is responsible. Residuals were analyzed within a structural equation modeling framework. The results showed unequal contributions of fuels (67.4%), weather (29.2%), and ignitions (3.4%) to spatial BP patterning. The large contribution of fuels reflects how substantial heterogeneity of land cover on this landscape strongly affects BP. Although weather has a chiefly temporal control on fire regimes, the variability in fire-conducive weather conditions exerted a surprisingly large influence on spatial BP patterns. The almost negligible effect of spatial ignition patterns was surprising but explainable in the context of this area’s fire regime. Similar contributions of fuels, weather, and ignitions could be expected in other parts of the boreal forest that lack a strong anthropogenic imprint, but are likely to be altered in human-dominated fire regimes.

Key words

Fire Boreal forest Ignitions Fuels Weather Burn probability Simulation modeling Structural equation modeling 



We are indebted to our colleagues who provided the data and advice necessary to build the suite of Burn-P3 inputs. Keith Hartery and Rita Antoniak sent us a wealth of data and information for Wood Buffalo National Park, Xulin Guo and Yuhong He shared results and guidance to help define the seasons, Bob Mazurik and Peter Englefield sent us land-cover data, and Lakmal Ratnayake provided fire data to develop the ignition grid. Kerry Anderson, Peter Englefield, Brad Hawkes, and Tim Lynham provided constructive comments on the manuscript. This study was funded by the Canadian Forest Service, Parks Canada, and the Joint Fire Science Program (Project 06-4-1-04).

Supplementary material

10021_2011_9474_MOESM1_ESM.doc (336 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 336 kb)
10021_2011_9474_MOESM2_ESM.doc (1.7 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 1782 kb)


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc-André Parisien
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sean A. Parks
    • 3
  • Carol Miller
    • 3
  • Meg A. Krawchuk
    • 4
  • Mark Heathcott
    • 5
  • Max A. Moritz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science, Policy and ManagementUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest ServiceNatural Resources CanadaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Rocky Mountain Research Station, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research InstituteUSDA Forest ServiceMissoulaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geography, RCB 7123Simon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  5. 5.Western Fire CentreParks CanadaCalgaryCanada

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