2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 168-12
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM

MAPPING FUTURE FIRE THREATS ASSOCIATED WITH CLIMATE-DRIVEN BIOME SHIFTS IN NORTH AMERICA


WALDING, Nicholas G. and BELCHER, Claire M., Department of Geography, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4PS, United Kingdom, nw274@exeter.ac.uk

Future projections of climatic change indicate that many regions will become more susceptible to fire. Of importance to fire is fuel type that strongly governs the occurrence and nature of fires in ecosystems. Changes to climate are predicted to cause significant changes to the distribution of biomes on our planet implying that many locations may be subjected to new fire regimes. Such shifts in experienced fire regime are important to attempt to quantify because they may imply new or additional fire risks to inhabited regions. Here we present an alternative approach to identifying and assessing future fire threats in North America based on analysis of projected climate driven changes to North American Biome distributions. We have created and ascribed a Fire Regime Index, drawn from Fire Radiative Power data from the Modis Satellite products and Mean Fire Interval data from the USFS, to 46 North American Biomes. We have used this to create fire regime index maps of North America both for the present day and for biome distributions in 2090. Regions that were found to undergo the most significant changes (be it increases or decreases in experienced fire regimes) are those adjacent to the Arctic Tundra, the Boreal Forest, the Temperate Deciduous Forest and south-western USA deserts. Future changes in these regions over the 21stCentury will result in adjacent areas experiencing new fire regimes that will pose new risks to both the human and the natural world.