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Spatially Explicit and Stochastic Simulation of Forest-Landscape Fire Disturbance and Succession

Hong S. He and David J. Mladenoff
Ecology
Vol. 80, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 81-99
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/176981
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/176981
Page Count: 19
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Spatially Explicit and Stochastic Simulation of Forest-Landscape Fire Disturbance and Succession
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Abstract

Understanding disturbance and recovery of forest landscapes is a challenge because of complex interactions over a range of temporal and spatial scales. Landscape simulation models offer an approach to studying such systems at broad scales. Fire can be simulated spatially using mechanistic or stochastic approaches. We describe the fire module in a spatially explicit, stochastic model of forest landscape dynamics (LANDIS) that incorporates fire, windthrow, and harvest disturbance with species-level succession. A stochastic approach is suited to forest landscape models that are designed to simulate patterns over large spatial and time domains and are not used deterministically to predict individual events. We used the model to examine how disturbance regimes and species dynamics interact across a large (500 000 ha), heterogeneous landscape in northern Wisconsin, USA, with six land types having different species environments, and fire disturbance return intervals varying from 200 to 1000 yr. The model shows that there are feedbacks over time between species, disturbance, and environment, resulting in the re-emergence of patterns that characterized the landscape before extensive alteration. Landscape equilibrium of species composition and age-class structure develops at three scales from the initial, disturbed landscape. Over 100-150 yr, fine-grained successional processes cause gradual disaggregation of the initial pattern of relatively homogenous composition and age classes. Species such as eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), largely removed from the landscape by past human activities, only slowly re-invade. Next, patterns on the various land types diverge, driven by different disturbance regimes and dominant species. Finally, aging of the landscape causes the probabilities of larger and more severe fires to increase, and a coarse-grained pattern develops from the disturbance patches. Influence of adjacent land types is shown as fires spread across land type boundaries, although modified in spread and severity. As found by others, altered landscapes are likely to retain their modified pattern for centuries, suggesting that nonequilibrium conditions between tree species and climate will persist under predicted rates of climate change. The results suggest that this modeling approach can be useful in examining species-level, broad-scale responses of heterogeneous landscapes to changes in landscape disturbance, such as modified management or land-use scenarios, or effects of global change.

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