Fire-climate linkages in western North America and southern South America
Climate, fire, and vegetation are closely related components of forest ecosystems in western North and South America. The strength and nature of the linkages among components vary depending on the time scale of interest. Although linkages on particular time scales seem reasonably clear, we lack a conceptual model that explains how the relationships on one time scale influence those at another.
This research seeks to understand the climate-fire-vegetation linkages in the temperate forests of western North and South America through a collaborative effort between paleoecologists who work on sediment-based records of fire and vegetation change and paleoclimatologists who study the link between large-scale features of climate and fire-weather conditions. This study thus benefits from the array of similar and contrasting conditions in the two regions, because they provide a set of natural experiments not possible in a single region.
The research takes two approaches: One is to build on current efforts to develop long high-resolution fire-history records in the western Americas. These efforts represent collaboration among U.S. and foreign researchers. The second approach is to discern the hierarchy of climate controls that either promote or suppress fire on particular time scales. Modern climate data are examined to determine the large-scale climate anomalies that influence fire regimes in the study areas.