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Alex Pogue, MSc

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MSc Student

Alex Pogue, MSc

Humans, climate, and an ignitions-limited fire regime at Vaseux Lake

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B.A., Biology, minor Geology, Whitman College (2009)

 

I came to forestry and fire ecology by way of loving to adventure in the mountains. While living in a ski town and working for the US Forest Service, I became fascinated by the balance fire managers are forced to strike between protecting communities and meeting the ecological needs of forests that evolved with fire.

My research with the Tree Ring Lab has focused on fire history in dry forests, and implications for fuels management and restoration. This research and my experiences as a firefighter have convinced me that understanding how fire regimes shaped forest dynamics historically is a valuable road map for planning fire policy moving forward.

I’m also interested in development, application, and monitoring of fuels treatments, and in long-term fire hazard planning. I’m excited by projects where multiple stakeholders can work together to create integrated fire management programs to meet a diverse range of objectives.

 

MSc Thesis
Humans, climate and an ignitions-limited fire regime at Vaseaux Lake

This study investigated the role of human land use and climate as drivers of the historical fire regime of a 400 ha protected area in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. I used fire scars and forest demography data to reconstruct spatiotemporal patterns in fires from 1714 - 2013. I also used paleo- reconstructions derived from tree ring series to evaluate whether historical fire-climate relationships changed with the displacement of indigenous peoples.
Fire patterns were closely coupled with the human history of the study area. Fires were more frequent, less synchronous, and burned earlier in the season when the Syilx people were stewarding the study area traditionally. Logistic regression showed that fires were also twice as likely during this period, and that topographic factors were not a significant control of the fire regime.
Analysis of fire-climate relationships revealed that human land use superseded the effects of inter-annual and decadal-scale climate as a driver of historical fires. Fires occurred during a variety of conditions when the Syilx were stewarding the study area traditionally, while fires after the Syilx were displaced were associated with El Niño years, which tend to bring warm/dry conditions to the region.


The historical fire regime at Vaseux was of mixed-severity in time and space, and this variability helped generate a complex forest structure. Historical fires helped control tree establishment and mortality, and the forest is now denser than it was historically due to reduced fire frequency in the late 20th century. Continued infilling could shift the fire regime towards a greater component of high-severity fire.


The results suggest that indigenous traditional land stewardship was the dominant control of historical fire dynamics at Vaseux. Managers wishing to preserve habitat and forest structures generated by the historical fire regime will need to account for the influence of indigenous burning, and modern lightning intervals will not be a sufficient baseline for setting treatment intervals. Proactive management designed to maintain a frequent mixed-severity fire regime will be necessary to promote ecological resilience in an uncertain future.

 

Research Contributions
Pogue, A. Humans, Climate, and an Ignitions-Limited Fire Regime at Vaseux Lake. Executive summary to be submitted to the Canadian Wildlife Service. February, 2017.

Pogue, A and Daniels, LD. Three Centuries of Fire at Vaseux Lake. Poster and presentation at the Southern Interior Silviculture Committee Annual Meeting. Kamloops, February, 2016.

Pogue, A, and Daniels, LD. Three Centuries of Fire at Vaseux Lake. Poster presented at Wildfire Canada 2016. Kelowna, October, 2016.