Spatial patterns and controls on historical fire regimes and forest structure in the Klamath Mountains

Alan H. Taylor, Carl N. Skinner

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277 Scopus citations


Fire exclusion in mixed conifer forests has increased the risk of fire due to decades of fuel accumulation. Restoration of fire into altered forests is a challenge because of a poor understanding of the spatial and temporal dynamics of fire regimes. In this study the spatial and temporal characteristics of fire regimes and forest age structure are reconstructed in a 2325-ha mixed conifer forest in the Klamath Mountains. Forests were multiaged and burned frequently at low and moderate severity, but forest age structure did not vary with aspect, elevation, or topographic position. Recently there has been an increase in forest density and a forest compositional shift to shade-tolerant species. Median fire return intervals (FRI) ranged from 11.5 to 16.5 yr and varied with aspect but not with forest composition or elevation. The median area burned was 106 ha, and the pre-Euro-American fire rotation of 19 yr increased to 238 yr after 1905. Intra-annual position of fire scars in the tree rings indicates that 93% of fires occurred during the dry midsummer through fall period. Spatial patterns of sites with similar fire dates were spatially coherent and separated from others by topographic features that influence fire spread. Thus, patterns of fire occurrence tended to be fixed in space with timing of fires varying among groups of sites. Spatial and temporal patterns of fire occurrence suggest that managers using physical features to contain prescribed fire will create burn patterns consistent with historical fires in the Klamath Mountains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-719
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology


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