Chapter 3: Large-Scale Patterns of Forest Fire Occurrence in the Conterminous United States and Alaska,2012This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Free-burning wildland fire has been a frequent ecological presence on the American landscape, and its expression has changed as new peoples and land uses have become predominant (Pyne 2010). As a pervasive disturbance agent operating at many spatial and temporal scales, wildland fire is a key abiotic factor affecting forest health both positively and negatively. In some ecosystems, wildland fires have been essential for regulating processes that maintain forest health despite causing extensive tree mortality (Lundquist and others 2011). Wildland fire, for example, is an important ecological mechanism that shapes the distributions of species, maintains the structure and function of fire-prone communities, and acts as a significant evolutionary force (Bond and Keeley 2005).