Modeling Post-Fire Tree Mortality Using a Logistic Regression Method within a Forest Landscape Model
Fire is a multi-scale process that is an important component in determining ecosystem age structures and successional trajectories across forested landscapes. In order to address questions regarding fire effects over large spatial scales and long temporal scales researchers often employ forest landscape models which can model fire as a spatially explicit disturbance. Within forest landscape models site-level fire effects are often simplified to the species, functional type, or cohort level due to time or computational resource limitations. In this study we used a subset of publicly available U.S. Forest Service forest inventory data (FIA) to estimate short-term fire effects on tree densities across multiple stem diameter classes in two ecological sections in the central and southern United States. We found that FIA plots where low-intensity fires occurred within the preceding five years in the Ozark Highlands ecological section had significantly reduced stem densities in the two smallest diameter classes and in the Gulf Coastal Plains and Flatwoods fire reduced stem densities in the three smallest diameter classes. Using an independent subset of FIA plots we then parameterized and calibrated a forest landscape model to simulate site-level fire effects using a logistic regression based method and compare the results to previous methods of modeling fire effects. When representative landscapes from both study areas were simulated under a low-intensity fire regime using a forest landscape model the logistic regression probability method of modeling fire effects produced a similar reduction in stem densities while the previous age-cohort method overestimated density reductions across diameter classes. A more realistic representation of fire effects, particularly in low intensity fire regimes, increases the utility of forest landscape models as tools for planning and management.