UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Are Climate Factors Driving the Contemporary Wildfire Occurrence in China? Lan, Zige; Su, Zhangwen; Guo, Meng; C. Alvarado, Ernesto; Guo, Futao; Hu, Haiqing; Wang, Guangyu

Abstract

Understanding the drivers of wildfire occurrence is of great value for fire prevention and management, but due to the variation in research methods, data sources, and data resolution of those studies, it is challenging to conduct a large-scale comprehensive comparative qualitative analysis on the topic. China has diverse vegetation types and topography, and has undergone rapid economic and social development, but experiences a high frequency of wildfires, making it one of the ideal locations for wildfire research. We applied the Random Forests modelling approach to explore the main types of wildfire drivers (climate factors, landscape factors and human factors) in three high wildfire density regions (Northeast (NE), Southwest (SW), and Southeast (SE)) of China. The results indicate that climate factors were the main driver of wildfire occurrence in the three regions. Precipitation and temperature significantly impacted the fire occurrence in the three regions due to the direct influence on the moisture content of forest fuel. However, wind speed had important influence on fire occurrence in the SE and SW. The explanation power of the landscape and human factors varied significantly between regions. Human factors explained 40% of the fire occurrence in the SE but only explained less than 10% of the fire occurrence in the NE and SW. The density of roads was identified as the most important human factor driving fires in all three regions, but railway density had more explanation power on fire occurrence in the SE than in the other regions. The landscape factors showed nearly no influence on fire occurrence in the NE but explained 46.4% and 20.6% in the SE and SW regions, respectively. Amongst landscape factors, elevation had the highest average explanation power on fire occurrence in the three regions, particularly in the SW. In conclusion, this study provides useful insights into targeted fire prediction and prevention, which should be more precise and effective under climate change and socio-economic development.

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CC BY 4.0

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