Mapping fire regimes across time and space: Understanding coarse and fine-scale fire patterns

Penelope Morgan, Colin C. Hardy, Thomas W. Swetnam, Matthew G. Rollins, Donald G. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

240 Scopus citations


Maps of fire frequency, severity, size, and pattern are useful for strategically planning fire and natural resource management, assessing risk and ecological conditions, illustrating change in disturbance regimes through time, identifying knowledge gaps, and learning how climate, topography, vegetation, and land use influence fire regimes. We review and compare alternative data sources and approaches for mapping fire regimes at national, regional, and local spatial scales. Fire regimes, defined here as the nature of fires occurring over an extended period of time, are closely related to local site productivity and topography, but climate variability entrains fire regimes at regional to national scales. In response to fire exclusion policies, land use, and invasion of exotic plants over the last century, fire regimes have changed greatly, especially in dry forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Comparing among and within geographic regions, and across time, is a powerful way to understand the factors determining and constraining fire patterns. Assembling spatial databases of fire information using consistent protocols and standards will aid comparison between studies, and speed and strengthen analyses. Combining multiple types of data will increase the power and reliability of interpretations. Testing hypotheses about relationships between fire, climate, vegetation, land use, and topography will help to identify what determines fire regimes at multiple scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-342
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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