Identifying the Threshold of Dominant Controls on Fire Spread in a Boreal Forest Landscape of Northeast China

Zhihua Liu, Jian Yang, Hong S. He

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31 Scopus citations


The relative importance of fuel, topography, and weather on fire spread varies at different spatial scales, but how the relative importance of these controls respond to changing spatial scales is poorly understood. We designed a "moving window" resampling technique that allowed us to quantify the relative importance of controls on fire spread at continuous spatial scales using boosted regression trees methods. This quantification allowed us to identify the threshold value for fire size at which the dominant control switches from fuel at small sizes to weather at large sizes. Topography had a fluctuating effect on fire spread across the spatial scales, explaining 20-30% of relative importance. With increasing fire size, the dominant control switched from bottom-up controls (fuel and topography) to top-down controls (weather). Our analysis suggested that there is a threshold for fire size, above which fires are driven primarily by weather and more likely lead to larger fire size. We suggest that this threshold, which may be ecosystem-specific, can be identified using our "moving window" resampling technique. Although the threshold derived from this analytical method may rely heavily on the sampling technique, our study introduced an easily implemented approach to identify scale thresholds in wildfire regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere55618
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2013


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