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Emergent relationships on burned area in global satellite observations and fire-enabled vegetation models

Forkel, M., Andela, N., Harrison, S. P., Lasslop, G., van Marle, M., Chuvieco, E., Dorigo, W., Forrest, M., Hantson, S., Heil, A., Li, F., Melton, J., Sitch, S., Yue, C. and Arneth, A. (2019) Emergent relationships on burned area in global satellite observations and fire-enabled vegetation models. Biogeosciences, 16. pp. 57-76. ISSN 1726-4170

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/bg-16-57-2019


Recent climate changes increases fire-prone weather conditions and likely affects fire occurrence, which might impact ecosystem functioning, biogeochemical cycles, and society. Prediction of how fire impacts may change in the future is difficult because of the complexity of the controls on fire occurrence and burned area. Here we aim to assess how process based fire-enabled Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) represent relationships between controlling factors and burned area. We developed a pattern-oriented model evaluation approach using the random forest (RF) algorithm to identify emergent relationships between climate, vegetation, and socioeconomic predictor variables and burned area. We applied this approach to monthly burned area time series for the period 2005-2011 from satellite observations and from DGVMs from the Fire Model Inter-comparison Project (FireMIP) that were run using a common protocol and forcing datasets. The satellite derived relationships indicate strong sensitivity to climate variables (e.g. maximum temperature, number of wet days), vegetation properties (e.g. vegetation type, previous-season plant productivity and leaf area, woody litter), and to socioeconomic variables (e.g. human population density). DGVMs broadly reproduce the relationships to climate variables and some models to population density. Interestingly, satellite-derived responses show a strong increase of burned area with previous-season leaf area index and plant productivity in most fire-prone ecosystems which was largely underestimated by most DGVMs. Hence our pattern-oriented model evaluation approach allowed to diagnose that current fire-enabled DGVMs represent some controls on fire to a large extent but processes linking vegetation productivity and fire occurrence need to be improved to accurately simulate the role of fire under global environmental change.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:81127
Publisher:Copernicus Publications


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