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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Megan P. Singleton; Andrea E. Thode; Andrew J. Sánchez Meador; Jose M. Iniguez; Jens T. Stevens
Publication Date: 2021

Context: Spatial patterns of high-severity wildfire in forests affect vegetation recovery pathways, watershed dynamics, and wildlife habitat across landscapes. Yet, less is known about contemporary trends in landscape patterns of high-severity burn patches or how differing federal fire management strategies have influenced such patterns.

Objectives: We assessed fires managed for ecological/resource benefit and fires that are fully suppressed and investigated: (1) whether spatial patterns of high-severity patches differed by management strategy, (2) whether spatial patterns were related to fire size and percent high-severity fire, and (3) temporal trends in spatial patterns.

Methods: We examined high-severity spatial patterns within large fires using satellite-derived burn severity data from 735 fires that burned from 1984 to 2017 in Arizona and New Mexico, USA. We calculated a suite of spatial pattern metrics for each individual fire and developed a method to identify those which best explained variation among fires.

Results: Compared to managed fires, spatial pattern metrics in suppression fires showed greater patch homogeneity. All spatial pattern metrics showed significant relationships with fire size and percent high-severity fire for both management strategies. Mean annual spatiotemporal trends in suppression fires have moved toward smaller, more complex, fragmented patches since the early 2000s.

Conclusions: Increases in fire size and proportion high-severity fire are driving more homogenous patches regardless of management type, with percent high-severity more strongly driving average temporal trends. Anticipated shifts in fire size and severity will likely result in larger, more contiguous, and simple-shaped patches of high-severity fire within southwestern conifer forests.

Online Links
Citation: Singleton, Megan P.; Thode, Andrea E.; Sánchez Meador, Andrew J.; Iniguez Jose M.; Stevens, Jens T. 2021. Management strategy influences landscape patterns of high-severity burn patches in the southwestern United States. Landscape Ecology 36(12):3429-3449.

Cataloging Information

  • fire severity
  • fire size
  • heterogeneity
  • high severity
  • patch dynamics
  • RdNBR - relative differenced Normalized Burn Ratio
  • spatial patterns
  • stand replacing patches
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Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 64338