About Fire Refugia

Working directly with land managers, this project will:

  1. Model the probability of contemporary fire refugia and stand-replacing fire associated with topographic features under a range of fire weather and climate conditions.
  2. Map the probability of fire refugia and stand-replacing fire across the PNW to assess the potential retention and recruitment of late- and early-successional forests.
  3. Share a suite of open-source, online applications to facilitate direct access to maps and analytical tools for managers, the general public, and other stakeholders.
Study Area

Study area map. Recent large wildfires have affected a substantial portion of late-successional and old-growth forest (LSOG) reserves across the study area. Fire and LSOG reserve maps from US federal monitoring programs.

What are fire refugia?

Fire refugia are a subset of broader climate refugia. Fire refugia have been defined in multiple ways, but in general they represent locations that are relatively protected from the effects of wildfire. This project focuses on forested locations that burn with low-severity or remain unburned within contemporary wildfire events.

What is stand-replacing fire?

At the opposite end of the burn severity spectrum, stand-replacing fire kills most or all of the canopy trees in a given location, dramatically altering forest structure and providing an opportunity for the establishment of pioneer species.

What are mature and old forests?

This project focuses on forests that have been identified as mature (80 years old) or old-growth (200 years old) by cutting-edge mapping techniques. Old-growth forests typically exhibit complex structure, including old trees, multiple vertical layers of trees, variable spatial patterns, and standing and downed dead trees. In the Pacific Northwest, old forests provide important habitat for threatened species, such as the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet.

Northern Spotted Owl

Northern spotted owl (photo: Ray Davis 2015)

Selected Additional Information and Resources

  • Downing, W.M., Meigs, G.W., Gregory, M.J., and Krawchuk, M.A. 2021. Where and why do conifer forests persist in refugia through multiple fire events? Global Change Biology 27(15):3642-3656; https://doi.org/10.1111/GCB.15655
  • Meigs, G.W., Dunn, C.J., Parks, S.A., and Krawchuk, M.A. 2020. Influence of topography and fuels on fire refugia probability under varying fire weather in forests of the US Pacific Northwest. Canadian Journal of Forest Research; https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2019-0406
  • Morelli, TL., Barrows, C., Ramirez, A., Cartwright, J., Ackerly, D., Eaves, T., Ebersole, J., Krawchuk, M.A., Letcher, B., Mahalovich, M., Meigs, G. Michalak, J., Millar, C., Quinones, R., Stralberg, D., Thorne, J. 2020. Climate change refugia: biodiversity in the slow lane. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 18:228-234. Special Issue on Climate Change Refugia; https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2189
  • Krawchuk, M.A., Meigs, G.W., Cartwright, J., Coop, J.D., Davis, R., Holz, A., Kolden, C., Meddens, A.J.H. 2020. Disturbance refugia within mosaics of forest fire, drought, and insect outbreaks. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 18:235-244 Special Issue on Climate Change Refugia; https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2190
  • Downing, W.M., Krawchuk, M.A., Meigs, G.W., Haire, S.L., Coop, J.D., Walker, R.B., Whitman, E., Chong, G., Miller, C. 2019. Influence of fire refugia spatial pattern on post-fire forest recovery in Oregon's Blue Mountains. Landscape Ecology 34:771-792; https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-019-00802-1
  • Meddens, A., Kolden, C., Lutz, J., Smith, A., Cansler, C., Abatzoglou, J., Meigs, G., Downing, W., and Krawchuk, M.A. 2018. Fire refugia: what are they and why do they matter for global change? BioScience 11; https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy103
  • Meigs, G., and Krawchuk, M.A. 2018. Composition and structure of forest fire refugia: what are the ecosystem legacies across burned landscapes. Forests 2018, 9(5), 243; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9050243
  • Krawchuk, M.A., Haire, S., Coop, J.C., Parisien, M-A., Whitman, E., Chong, G., Miller, C. 2016. Topographic and fire weather controls of fire refugia in forested ecosystems of northwestern North America. Ecosphere 7(12) e01632; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecs2.1632/full