GOWDA juan Janakiram Haridas
Decreases in Fire Spread Probability with Forest Age Promotes Alternative Community States, Reduced Resilience to Climate Variability and Large Fire Regime Shifts
KITZBERGER T.; ARAOZ, E.; GOWDA, J.H.; MERMOZ, M.; MORALES, J.M.
ECOSYSTEMS (NEW YORK. PRINT)
The generalization that plant communities increase in flammability as they age and invariably lead to resilient self-organized landscape mosaics is being increasingly challenged. Plant communities often exhibit rapidly saturating or even hump-shaped age-flammability trajectories and landscapes often display strong non-linear behaviors, abrupt shifts, and self-reinforcing alternative community states. This plethora of fire-landscape interactions calls for a more general model that considers alternative age-flammability rules. We simulated landscape dynamics assuming communities that (1) increase in flammability with age and (2) gain flammability up to a certain age followed by a slight and moderate loss to a constant value. Simulations were run under combinations of ignition frequency and interannual climatic variability. Age-increasing fire probability promoted high resilience to changes in ignition frequency and climatic variability whereas humpbacked-shaped age-flammability led to strong non-linear behaviors. Moderate (20%) reductions in mature compared to peak flammability produced the least resilient behaviors. The relatively nonflammable mature forest matrix intersected by young flammable patches is prone to break up and disintegrate with slight increases in ignition/climate variability causing large-scale shifts in the fire regime because large fires were able to sweep through the more continuous young/flammable landscape. Contrary to the dominant perception, fire suppression in landscapes with positive feedbacks may effectively reduce fire occurrence by allowing less flammable later stage communities composed of longer lived, obligate seeders to replace earlier stages of light demanding, often more flammable resprouters. Conversely, increases in anthropogenic ignitions, a common global trend of many forested regions may, in synergism with increased climate variability, induce abrupt shifts, and large-scale forest degradation.