Wildfire Management in the Southside Region of Canada’s Montane Cordillera - A Systems Modelling Application on Firebreak Strategies

Title: Wildfire Management in the Southside Region of Canada’s Montane Cordillera - A Systems Modelling Application on Firebreak Strategies
Authors: Kessels, Henricus
Date: 2016
Abstract: There is growing recognition of the importance of preserving Canada’s forests. Canada’s 348 million hectares of forest land cover 35% of its land area, representing 9% of the world’s forests and 24% of the world’s boreal forests. As a renewable resource, forests offer significant environmental, economic and recreational benefits and innumerable services contributing to the quality of life. Canada has recently entered an era of increased frequency and severity of natural disasters. Ecosystems and communities especially in western Canada have recently undergone a trend of increasing pressures from natural disturbances. These disturbances include wildfires associated with increased fuel load levels from past fire suppression regimes and a widely spread infestation of the mountain pine beetle in addition to changes in weather patterns. Wildfire activity has reached extreme levels in many of the recent years. This thesis profiles an area of western Canada within the Montane Cordillera covering the Nechako Lakes Electoral District in central British Columbia and assesses its vulnerability to the specific hazard of wildfires caused by natural and man-made sources. The objectives of this research are to review, simulate and assess the impact of various fuel management strategies in a sub-section of the Nechako Lakes Electoral District called the Southside. Values at risk include private property and old growth forest in respectively timber supply areas, provincial parks, woodlots and community forests. Simulation results show that firebreaks are effective in significantly reducing the area burned in different parts of the landscape. The performance of different strategies shows large variation. Although this has not been investigated further, such variation has likely been caused by topographic aspects and the positioning of firebreaks in the landscape in relation to climatic parameters. These results can therefore not be extrapolated beyond the simulated area, but do give an indication of the performance variation that may be expected when similar firebreaks are applied elsewhere. The results also show that model performance of all firebreak strategies is heavily and fairly consistently influenced by weather stream parameters. Sensitivity analyses of weather stream parameters show that although the reduction in total area burned varies, the ranking between strategies in their overall performance is consistent regardless of the weather pattern. Combined dry, warm and windy weather conditions lead to a 3.44-fold increase in total area burned as compared to the scenario with average weather conditions. In favourable weather conditions represented by wet, cold and nearly windless conditions, the model shows an 85% reduction in total burned area as compared to the average scenario. These results illustrate the significant impact of uncontrollable variables on the overall result.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/35107
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -