Fire intensity and frequency as factors in the distribution and structure of northern ecosystems
Document Type: Book Chapter
Author(s): Miron L. Heinselman
Editor(s): Harold A. Mooney; T. M. Bonnicksen; Norman L. Christensen Jr.; James E. Lotan; William A. Reiners
Publication Year: 1981

Cataloging Information

  • boreal forests
  • Canada
  • community ecology
  • coniferous forests
  • crown fires
  • distribution
  • ecosystems
  • elevation
  • European settlement
  • fire control
  • fire exclusion
  • fire frequency
  • fire intensity
  • fire regimes
  • fire size
  • fire suppression
  • hardwoods
  • lightning
  • logging
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • montane forests
  • mosaic
  • New England
  • pine forests
  • presettlement fires
  • regimes
  • species diversity
  • subalpine forests
  • succession
  • surface fires
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 1720
Tall Timbers Record Number: 1704
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: A13.88:WO-26
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Most presettlement Canadian and Alaskan boreal forests and Rocky Mountain subalpine forests had lightning fire regimes of large-scale crown fires and high-intensity surface fires, causing total stand replacement on fire rotations (or cycles) to 50 to 200 years. Cycles and fire size varied with latitude, elevation, and topographic-climate factors. Some areas had smaller, less-intense surface fires at shorter intervals. The Great Lakes-Acadian forests had regimes of short cycle crown fires in near-boreal jack pine and spruce forests, combinations of moderate intensity short-interval surface fires and small-scale crown fires at longer intervals in red-white pine forests, and low intensity long-interval fires in hardwoods. Fire maintained the structure and pattern of the forest mosaic. These regimes still prevail in the far north. Elsewhere regimes and the forest mosaic are greatly modified by logging, man-caused fires, and fire suppression.

Online Link(s):
Heinselman, Miron L. 1981. Fire intensity and frequency as factors in the distribution and structure of northern ecosystems. Pages 7-57 In: Mooney, Harold A.; Bonnicksen, T.M.; Christensen Jr., Norman L.; Lotan, James E.; Reiners, William A. (Ed.). Fire regimes and ecosystem properties - Proceedings of the conference held December 11-15, 1978, Honolulu, Hawaii. General Technical Report WO-GTR-26 Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service.