Littell JS, Peterson DL, Riley KL, Liu Y, Luce CH

Global Change Biology

Published date April 19, 2016

A review of the relationships between drought and forest fire in the United States

  • States that the historical and presettlement relationships between drought and wildfire are well documented in North America, with forest fire occurrence and area clearly increasing in response to drought
  • States there is evidence that drought interacts with other controls (forest productivity, topography, fire weather, management activities) to affect fire intensity, severity, extent, and frequency
  • States that fire regime characteristics arise across many individual fires at a variety of spatial and temporal scales, so both weather and climate - including short- and long-term droughts - are important and influence several, but not all, aspects of fire regimes
  • Reviews relationships between drought and fire regimes in United States forests, fire-related drought metrics and expected changes in fire risk, and implications for fire management under climate change
  • Finds that, collectively, this points to a conceptual model of fire on real landscapes: fire regimes, and how they change through time, are products of fuels and how other factors affect their availability (abundance, arrangement, continuity) and flammability (moisture, chemical composition)
  • States that climate, management, and land use all affect availability, flammability, and probability of ignition differently in different parts of North America
  • States that from a fire ecology perspective, the concept of drought varies with scale, application, scientific or management objective, and ecosystem