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Utah: Comparing FRCC and LANDFIRE Vegetation Model Results with Tree-ring Data

Swetnem, Tyson L. and Peter M. Brown

Fire Regime Condition Class (FRCC - also called VDC, Vegetation Departure Condition) has been developed as a nationally consistent interagency method in the US to assess degree of departure between historical and current fire regimes and vegetation structural conditions across differing vegetation types. Historical and existing vegetation map data also are being developed for the nationwide LANDFIRE project to aid in FRCC assessments.

Here, we compare selected FRCC and LANDFIRE vegetation characteristics derived from simulation modeling with similar characteristics reconstructed from tree-ring data collected from 11 forested sites in Utah. Reconstructed reference conditions based on trees present in 1880 compared with reference conditions modeled by the Vegetation Dynamics Development Tool for individual Biophysical Settings (BpS) used in FRCC and LANDFIRE assessments showed significance relationships for ponderosa pine, aspen, and mixed-conifer BpS but not for spruce–fir, piñon–juniper, or lodgepole pine BpS. LANDFIRE map data were found to be ∼58% accurate for BpS and ∼60% accurate for existing vegetation types. Results suggest that limited sampling of age-to-size relationships by different species may be needed to help refine reference condition definitions used in FRCC assessments, and that more empirical data.

Published in International Journal of Wildland Fire 2010, 19: 1-13.

Tyson Swetnem and Peter M. Brown.