John Nez Nesbitt (2010)

Quantifying Forest Fire Variability using Tree Rings: Nelson, British Columbia, 1700-present

M.Sc. Thesis
Department of Geography, University of British Columbia Vancouver

ABSTRACT

This study uses dendroecology to provide direct evidence of historic forest fires and their effects on stand structure and dynamics at a local scale in the montane forests in southeastern British Columbia (BC). Using tree ages and fire-scarred trees, I determined the historic variability of fires by quantifying stand dynamics in relation to past fires in the mixed-conifer forests surrounding Nelson, a wildland-urban interface community in southeastern BC. I built fire records that extended from 1642–2009 across 18 sites in the ~160,000 hectare study area. Although a watershed-level fire signal is evident, site-to-site differences in fire-scar records and stand dynamics suggest that topography and land use caused variability in the fire histories of the individual sites. Numbers of fire-scarred trees and importance values of fire-tolerant trees decreased significantly with elevation. Fire-intolerant trees were most abundant in the subcanopy across all elevations. Most strikingly, no fires were recorded since 1932 across all sites, suggesting that fire exclusion has been effective and that future stands will likely continue to diverge from historic stands by becoming more dense, more homogenous in species composition, and, as a result, more susceptible to high-severity fires.

RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS

RESEARCH REPORTS

Daniels, L.D., Z. Gedalof, M.F.J. Pisaric, C.J. Courtney Mustaphi, E. Da Silva, H. Marcoux, V. Mather, J. Nesbitt, E. Paul-Limoges, J. Perrault, C.L. Steele. 2011. Historic climate-fire-vegetation interactions of the West versus East Kootenays: Implications of climate change and fire suppression. Final Report to NSERC-Strategic Research Partners. June 2011.

Nesbitt, J. and Daniels, L.D. 2009. Fire History in Cranbrook: Reconstructing Fire Frequency at McLeary Park & Rocky Mountain Airport, Technical Report submitted to R.W. Gray Consulting Ltd., April 2009.

Gray, R.W., J. Nesbitt and L.D. Daniels. 2009. An Investigation of Fire History and Forest Dynamics and Their Impact on Wildfire Hazard in McLeary Park, Cranbrook. Report to the City of Cranbrook, British Columbia. August 2009.

Arford, M., Carilli, J., Chappell, B., Carter, G., Gonçalves, G., Hupy, C., Leland, C., Luszczynski, B., McDonald, S., Mather, V., Nesbitt, J., O’Brien, M., Sakulich, J., Speer, J., Spond, M., Stewart, T., Stott, K., Thomas, B., Van De Veer, R., Wixom, J. 2009. Pith to bark: building a chronology from Apex Mountain, British Colombia using tree-ring analysis. Report on the 18th Annual North American Dendroecological Fieldweek held June 2008 at Apex Mountain, BC, Canada.

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

Nesbitt, J. and L.D. Daniels. 2010. Drivers of Mixed Severity Fires: Quantifying Forest Fire Variability in Nelson, British Columbia 1700-Present. Association of AmericanGeographers Annual Meeting, April 2010, Washington, DC, USA.

Nesbitt, J., Arford, M., Carilli, J., Chappell, B., Carter, G., Gonçalves, G., Hupy, C., Leland, C., Luszczynski, B., McDonald, S., Mather, V., O’Brien M., Sakulich, J., Speer, J., Spond, M., Stewart, T., Stott, K., Thomas, B., Van De Veer, R., and Wixom, J. 2009. Pith to Bark: An Introduction to Collaborative Learning at the North American Dendroecological Fieldweek. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, March 2009, Las Vegas, NV, USA.

WORKSHOPS

Fire History and Stand Dynamics in the Kootenays
Presenters: L.D. Daniels, J. Nesbitt, H. Marcoux, and S. Gergel; Co-Authors: E. Da Silva, Z. Gedalof, V. Mather, C.J. Courtney Mustaphi, M.F.J. Pisaric
Workshops sponsored by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range, Nelson & Cranbrook, BC, August 2010

CURRENT POSITION

Nez is continuing his education in medicine.

For further information, contact Dr. Lori Daniels, Department of Forest Sciences, University of British Columbia, lori.daniels@ubc.ca