TAS-5: Climate-fire-fuels linkages

Title:  Understanding fire-fuel-climate linkages on multiple temporal and spatial scales in Tasmania, through empirical and modeling approaches

Investigators: Keane, Yospin, Cary, Bowman, Veblen, Whitlock, Higuera, Wood, Holz

Interns: Weingart, Fixico

Project Description

In 1968, W.D. Jackson proposed a comprehensive model of how Tasmanian vegetation types, fire frequency and soil fertility interacted in a complex system of feedback loops, resulting in self-reinforcing vegetation patterns. This theory profoundly influenced the subsequent course of fire ecological research far beyond Tasmania.  In WildFIRE PIRE, we will examine aspects of Jackson’s theory that are fundamental to predicting how vegetation will respond to future climate-induced changes in fire activity. 

Our plan is to utilize dynamic global vegetation models and fire landscape simulation models (e.g., Fire-BGCv2, Firescape, and other GCTE models), as well as data-model comparisons, to explore the interactions of vegetation, climate and fire at different spatial and temporal scales, including under future climate change.  We will use scenarios developed from integrated watershed histories (based on other PIRE TAS projects), climate data, and land-use information (prehistoric, historic, and recent) to test the effects of fire and different land-use conditions on fuel, vegetation response and vegetation feedbacks.

Work Plan

A discussion with the WildFIRE PIRE researchers likely to be involved in this project is scheduled for May 23.   A few questions are listed to initiate that discussion:

  • Note that the Project plan for Syn-3 “Interregional fire-fuels-climate linkages” indicates that Fire BGCv2 will be applied to a 50-100K landscape in Tasmania.  Would that be an Athrotaxis landscape where research is being planned under the ARC project?
  • Would work under the Tas-5 Project may fall entirely under the Syn-3 work plan (i.e. application of Fire BGCv2 and other modeling approaches), or can other proposals come forward using different approaches? 
  • If the group decides to apply BGCv2 to a landscape in Tasmania, what input data are available for Tasmania, and what inputs are likely to become available in Year 4 as products of TAS-2 (Athrotaxis tree-ring fire history and dynamics)?

Related Activities/Existing Funding

Clarification of activities in PIRE Syn-3 is needed.

Year 2 Update:

The goal of the project is to simulate vegetation dynamics of a landscape in Cradle Mountain National Park, examining the importance of vegetation, climate, and landscape as controls on fire initiation and spread as well as the consequences of different fire regimes on forest recovery and carbon storage.  The results of the Tasmania study will be compared with the results of fire modeling underway by Keane, Perry, and others in New Zealand and the western U.S. (Syn-3).

The first phase of this project required the collection of vegetation data necessary to parameterize the FireBGC2 model for Cradle Mountain National Park.  As part of this project, Yospin was hired as a Post-doc to lead modeling efforts.  Yospin, Keane, and interns Weingart and Fixico spent ten days in the field collecting vegetation and fuel information, familiarizing themselves with vegetation patterns, and ground-truthing GIS-based vegetation database and maps.  During field work, they were joined by Veblen and Holz for one day.  Yospin conducted a follow-up literature survey to help parameterize the model, while based in the Haberle lab at Australian National University and while working with Bowman and Wood at University of Tasmania.  Yospin continues this research activity at the USDA Fire Science lab in Missoula.  Keane and Cary discussed the Tas-5 research and approaches at a modeling workshop in Hawaii in March.

This activity is unlikely to begin until Year 3 or 4, and thus requires no support in Year 2, except through post-doc involvement on PIRE Syn-3.