Spatial attributes of fire regime in eastern Canada: influences of regional landscape physiography and climate


The characterization of the fire regime in the boreal forest rarely considers spatial attributes other than fire size. This study investigates the spatial attributes of fires using the physiography of the landscape as a spatial constraint at a regional scale. Using the Canadian National Fire Database, the size, shape, orientation and eccentricity were assessed for 1,136 fires between 1970 and 2010 in Quebec’s boreal forest and were summarized by ecodistrict. These spatial metrics were used to cluster 33 ecodistricts into homogeneous fire zones and then to determine which environmental variables (climate, topography, hydrography, and surficial deposits) influence the spatial attributes of fires. Analyses showed that 28 out of 33 ecodistricts belonging to a given fire zone were spatially contiguous, suggesting that factors driving the spatial attributes of fire are acting at a regional scale. Indeed, the orientation and size of fires vary significantly among the zones and are driven by the spatial orientation of the landscape and the seasonal regional climate. In some zones, prevailing winds during periods conducive to fire events parallel to the orientation of the landscape may favour the occurrence of very large fires (>100,000 ha). Conversely, an orientation of the landscape opposite to the prevailing winds may act as a natural firebreak and limit the fire size and orientation. This study highlights the need to consider the synergistic relationship between the landscape spatial patterns and the climate regime over the spatial attributes of fire at supra-regional scale. Further scale-dependant studies are needed to improve our understanding of the spatial factors controlling the spatial attributes of fire.

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This research was made possible by the financial and in-kind support provided by Quebec’s Ministère des Ressources naturelles (MRNQ). We thank Natural Resources Canada for the Canadian National Fire Database, the map of surficial deposits and the hydrography data. We are very grateful to Pamela Cheers and to Alix Rive for reviewing the manuscript and helpful comments. We are also grateful to the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Canadian Forest Service for their logistical support. We also thank NSERC, FQRNT Fonds Forestier and UQAM (excellence award) for their financial support.

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Correspondence to Nicolas Mansuy.

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Mansuy, N., Boulanger, Y., Terrier, A. et al. Spatial attributes of fire regime in eastern Canada: influences of regional landscape physiography and climate. Landscape Ecol 29, 1157–1170 (2014).

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  • Clustering
  • Orientation
  • Size
  • Surficial deposits
  • Topography
  • Wind