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Journal of Geographical Systems

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 159–181 | Cite as

What governs the presence of residual vegetation in boreal wildfires?

  • Yikalo H. ArayaEmail author
  • Tarmo K. Remmel
  • Ajith H. Perera
Original Article

Abstract

Wildfires are frequent boreal forest disturbances in Canada, and emulating their patterns with forest harvesting has emerged as a common forest management goal. Wildfires contain many patches of residual vegetation of various size, shape, and composition; understanding their characteristics provides insights for improved emulation criteria. We studied the occurrence of residual vegetation within eleven boreal wildfire events in a natural setting; fires ignited by lightning, no suppression efforts, and no prior anthropogenic disturbances. Relative importance of the measurable geo-environmental factors and their marginal effects on residual presence are studied using Random Forests. These factors included distance from natural firebreaks (wetland, bedrock and non-vegetated areas, and water), land cover, and topographic variables (elevation, slope, and ruggedness index). We present results at spatial resolutions ranging from four to 64 m while emphasizing four and 32 m since they mimic IKONOS- and Landsat-type images. Natural firebreak features, especially the proximity to wetlands, are among the most important variables that explain the likelihood residual occurrence. The majority of residual vegetation areas are concentrated within 100 m of wetlands. Topographic variables, typically important in rugged terrain, are less important in explaining the presence of residuals within our study fires.

Keywords

Residuals Random Forests Predictor variables Variable importance Partial dependency Spatial resolution 

JEL Classification

C8 C14 Q5 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yikalo H. Araya
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tarmo K. Remmel
    • 1
  • Ajith H. Perera
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeographyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Ontario Ministry of Natural ResourcesOntario Forest Research InstituteSault Ste. MarieCanada

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