Landscape Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 661–673 | Cite as

Land Cover Type and Fire in Portugal: Do Fires Burn Land Cover Selectively?

  • Maria C.S. NunesEmail author
  • Maria J. Vasconcelos
  • José M.C. Pereira
  • Nairanjana Dasgupta
  • Richard J. Alldredge
  • Francisco C. Rego
Research Article


The purpose of this study is to investigate if, or under what conditions, fires select given land cover types for burning. If fires burn unselectively then the land cover composition (the proportional area of various land cover types) of individual fires should approximate the land cover composition available in their neighborhood. In this study we test this hypothesis by performing statistical analyses of a data set consisting of paired vectors with the proportions of land cover types present in burned areas and in their respective surroundings. The statistical methods employed (a permutation technique and the Cmax statistic) are commonly used in resource selection studies where data is subject to a unit-sum constraint. The results of the analysis of 506 fires that burned in Portugal in 1991 indicate that fires are selective, with small fires exhibiting stronger land cover preferences than large fires. According to the results of a multiple comparison analysis performed for small fires, there is a marked preference for shrubland followed by other forest cover types, while agriculture is clearly avoided. A similar analysis is performed to test if fire selectivity is related to the ecological region where it occurs. The results obtained in this study contribute to the discussion on the relative importance of fuels as a drivers of fire spread.

Key words:

Cmax statistic Fuel type selection Mathematical morphology Multiple comparison Permutation technique Resource selection 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria C.S. Nunes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maria J. Vasconcelos
    • 1
    • 2
  • José M.C. Pereira
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nairanjana Dasgupta
    • 4
  • Richard J. Alldredge
    • 4
  • Francisco C. Rego
    • 5
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigação Científica TropicalLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Centro de Estudos FlorestaisInstituto Superior de AgronomiaTapada da AjudaPortugal
  3. 3.Departamento de Engenharia FlorestalInstituto Superior de AgronomiaTapada da AjudaPortugal
  4. 4.Department of StatisticsWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  5. 5.Centro de Ecologia Aplicada Baeta NevesInstituto Superior de AgronomiaTapada da AjudaPortugal

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