The fire frequency analysis branch of the pyrostatistics tree: sampling decisions and censoring in fire interval data

Abstract

Statistical characterization of past fire regimes is important for both the ecology and management of fire-prone ecosystems. Survival analysis—or fire frequency analysis as it is often called in the fire literature—has increasingly been used over the last few decades to examine fire interval distributions. These distributions can be generated from a variety of sources (e.g., tree rings and stand age patterns), and analysis typically involves fitting the Weibull model. Given the widespread use of fire frequency analysis and the increasing availability of mapped fire history data, our goal has been to review and to examine some of the issues faced in applying these methods in a spatially explicit context. In particular, through a case study on the massive Cedar Fire in 2003 in southern California, we examine sensitivities of parameter estimates to the spatial resolution of sampling, point- and area-based methods for assigning sample values, current age surfaces versus historical intervals in generating distributions, and the inclusion of censored (i.e., incomplete) observations. Weibull parameter estimates were found to be roughly consistent with previous fire frequency analyses for shrublands (i.e., median age at burning of ~30–50 years and relatively low age dependency). Results indicate, however, that the inclusion or omission of censored observations can have a substantial effect on parameter estimates, far more than other decisions about specifics of sampling.

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Correspondence to Max A. Moritz.

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Moritz, M.A., Moody, T.J., Miles, L.J. et al. The fire frequency analysis branch of the pyrostatistics tree: sampling decisions and censoring in fire interval data. Environ Ecol Stat 16, 271–289 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10651-007-0088-y

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Keywords

  • Age dependency
  • Cedar Fire
  • Fire ecology
  • Hazard function
  • Spatial analysis
  • Weibull model