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Wildland-urban interface fire dynamics simulator input files for pyric tree spatial patterning interactions in historical and contemporary mixed conifer forests, California, USA

Citation

Ziegler, Justin (2021), Wildland-urban interface fire dynamics simulator input files for pyric tree spatial patterning interactions in historical and contemporary mixed conifer forests, California, USA, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h18931zjp

Abstract

Tree spatial patterns in dry coniferous forests of the western US, and analogous ecosystems globally, were historically aggregated, comprising a mixture of single trees and groups of trees. Modern forests, in contrast, are generally more homogeneous and overstocked than their historical counterparts. As these modern forests lack regular fire, pattern formation and maintenance is generally attributed to fire. Accordingly, fires in modern forests may not yield historically analogous patterns. However, direct observations on how selective tree mortality among pre-existing forest structure shapes tree spatial patterns is limited. In this study, we (1) simulated fires in historical and contemporary counterpart plots in a Sierra Nevadan mixed-conifer forest, (2) estimated tree mortality, and (3) examined tree spatial patterns of live trees before and after fire, and of fire-killed trees. Tree mortality in the historical period was clustered and density-dependent, because trees were aggregated and segregated by tree size before fire. Thus, fires maintained an aggregated distribution of tree groups. Tree mortality in the contemporary period was widespread, except for dispersed large trees, because most trees were a part of large, interconnected tree groups. Thus, post-fire tree patterns were more uniform and devoid of moderately sized tree groups. Post-fire tree patterns in the historical period, unlike the contemporary period, were within the historical range of variability identified for the western US. This divergence suggests that decades of forest dynamics without significant disturbances has altered the historical means of pyric pattern formation. Our results suggest that ecological silvicultural treatments, such as forest restoration thinnings, which emulate qualities of historical forests may facilitate the reintroduction of fire as a means to reinforce forest structural heterogeneity.

Methods

These input files are executable by the Wildland-urban interface Fire Dyamics Simuator, a computational fluid dynamics computer program. Embedded within the input files are tree lines which represent the location and size of individual trees.

Usage Notes

In order to replicate this study, one needs to execute these inputs files in Wildland-urban interface Fire Dyamics Simuator. There are 6 input files, one for each fire scenario. File names are formatted as [plotname]_[year].fds (see manuscript for details on individual scenarios.

Funding

Pacific Northwest Research Station, Award: 16-JV-11272167-063

Pacific Northwest Research Station, Award: 17-JV-11272138-074

Pacific Northwest Research Station, Award: 19-JV-11261987-085