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Old 01-02-2022, 02:03 PM   #1
DSettahr
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Map of fire regimes across the USA

I'm not sure what happened to the thread on fires and their differing impacts in the ADKs that was posted in the "General Adirondack Discussion" section of the forum. The one thing I was going to add to the conversation there was the following map that shows how the natural fire regimes differ across the Adirondack region- as well as across the entirety of the country. ​This was pointed out in that thread but the following map helps to illustrate it:


Of note is that the majority of the central ADKs is classified as having a natural fire regime that consists of "stand replacement fires." This means that when natural fires do occur across the majority of the Adirondack Park, they are nearly always catastrophic events resulting in a complete reset of successional forest dynamics.

In contrast, the fringes of the Adirondack Park- including the Lake Champlain valley- have a natural fire regime that consists of "mixed severity fires." In other words, when fires occur here, the set back in successional dynamics isn't always so severe, and the forest can appear to recover more quickly- especially when compared to the different regime of the higher elevation parts of the ADKs.

As complex as this map looks, it's still very much a generalization. The rabbit hole of differing fire regimes is deep- if you do a google image search for maps of fire regimes across the USA, you find no shortage of Jackson Pollock-inspired graphics.
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Old 01-02-2022, 02:28 PM   #2
montcalm
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I took it down, it was too rambling and disorganized. There's really a few key points of it that I can reiterate, but this map is great.

I'm assuming that map's been compiled from a the few remaining relatively undisturbed stands in the Adirondacks that claim (I can't find a good reference for this) that there are maple and yellow birch up to 350 years old (as far as I can see on that map, the Adirondacks are in the 200-500 year range). Those trees are the least resistant to fire, so presence of that age group can be an indication of a long stretch. Unfortunately we logged away and/or then burned much of that evidence, so it's tough to say exactly. I assume mainly that the Hemi-boreal forest type in purple part of the park is the main indicator.

What I also read was that these regimes are assumed to regenerate from fire - that is, it was assumed that those old yellow birch much have started from a fire, but apparently this is not 100% certain.

The root of my curiosity on the subject is what drives the fire regime, and thus, as far as I can see, forest type? Obviously it's some impact of climate, latitude and altitude, but really what causes those lines we see between ecosystems/fire regimes, whatever? And if that map is to be believed, it's not entirely fire regime, because Eastern Tug Hill and the Western Adirondacks are very similar in climate, precipitation, elevation and forest speciation and distribution. The soils are very different though...

Last edited by montcalm; 01-02-2022 at 06:59 PM..
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Old 01-02-2022, 09:36 PM   #3
DSettahr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by montcalm View Post
The root of my curiosity on the subject is what drives the fire regime...?
Natural fire behavior is based on three general factors: climate, topography, and ignition sources. I'd argue that existing cover type/plant species (as well as the vertical structure of onsite fuels) is a fourth factor that can influence fire behavior but this is a bit of a complex relationship- as these factors can also be seen as a product of previous fire behavior.

In terms of how separate fire regimes are differentiated- there's three general components that are evaluated to determine what kind of regime an area fits into:
  • The typical frequency of fires for that area- how often they occur
  • The typical severity of fires for that area- how strong they are
  • The typical season fires occur during in that area- what time of year
It's worth noting that you can observe climate differences across even relatively small areas within the Adirondack Park. For example, days in which sunny skies prevail over Lake Placid or Speculator are common, yet on those same days, a dense bank of clouds can be observed from those same towns, parked over the higher elevations of the High Peaks Wilderness or the West Canada Lakes Wilderness.

And there's even observable differences at higher elevations within the High Peaks as you move from west to east. On rainy/stormy days, it's not unheard of for the western and central high peaks can be hit with deluges and downpours, only for the clouds to lift and the rain to mostly cease by the time those same weather patterns hit the eastern High Peaks- Giant Mountain and the Dix Range.
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Old 01-02-2022, 09:59 PM   #4
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Right - microclimates. I've often looked at snow depth in regard to that, but that really doesn't always coincide with the other 3 seasons when fires would occur.

Topography is probably the operative word I was missing...

It seems to me a lot of moisture gets blocked to the east by the Snowy/Wakely range in the south and the western high peaks in the east. Again I'm largely using snow as my metric because it's what I've observed, but often there's a lot less snow either north/east of the high peaks, and east of Indian Lake.

I also had wondered how easily fire might spread in the western areas that just have so many small lakes and streams. You'd think those would act as natural fire breaks and you'd have more isolated fires.
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Old 01-02-2022, 11:40 PM   #5
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Yeah, the "Little High Peaks" are impressive in their own right, and it's easy to forget that other parts of ADKs apart from the High Peaks also have enough of a vertical profile to influence weather patterns.

Snowy Mountain misses the park of being a High Peak by a mere 101 feet- and is even taller than some of the actual High Peaks that were later found to have elevations less than was originally calculated.

It's too bad Snowy didn't get a 100+ foot fire tower. Then Snowy could've been an "honorary" High Peak.
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Old 01-03-2022, 10:44 AM   #6
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I combed through some maps and papers from the search link above. Lots of variation, which tells me it's probably a lot of speculation.

I like the results that make sense to me, but as I often have to remind myself, and others: nature is under no obligation to make sense to anyone.

Generally what I can glean from this is: most of NY is considered infrequent in terms of wild fire. Models that take into account climate and chemistry seem to make the most sense to me in terms of current forest types present.



Here we see a similar regime for eastern Tug Hill and the west/central Adirondacks, with more frequent fire probability in the north and east of the park, as well as around the edges - which makes sense based on forest ecology present in these areas.
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