Understanding mixed-severity fire regimes, their dynamics and their resilience to climate change in the southern Alberta Foothills - Year two
Mounting evidence shows that boreal and mountain forests are not solely driven by high severity fires that kill most of the above-ground vegetation (i.e. stand-replacing fires). Indeed, wildfire severity can be highly heterogeneous, leading to spatially complex forest landscapes, with multiple species and uneven ages. Many existing fire dynamics models do not explicitly consider the complex interactions and feedbacks between fire, vegetation and climate, which drive mixed-severity fire regimes. Yet such a model is crucial both for immediate landscape management and to manage for climate change. This project aims at building a spatially explicit, landscape dynamical model of mixed severity fire regimes using the SpaDES (SPAtial Discrete Event Simulator) framework. We will build upon an on-going Mitacs Accelerate project, during which model development and data compilation have been initiated, and take it further to consider climate change impacts on wildfire patterns and vegetation dynamics, but also changes in ecosystem stability and resilience. Our mixed-severity fire (MSF) model will be calibrated and validated on a study area in the southern Alberta Foothills, where evidence of MSF regimes exists and is being investigated further by another Mitacs Elevate project that will supply data for model calibration and validation.