Ecological disturbance as a renewal process: theory and application to fire history

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Failure-time analysis and renewal theory were used to evaluate 2 assumptions implicit in most studies involving calculations of disturbance frequency, which assume that the disturbance process is stationary (intervals between disurbances are drawn from the same distribution) and that the probability of disturbance does not change with time since the last disturbance. Quantitative methods are applied to long-term fire-occurrence data (five scars on red pine Pinus resinosa trees and stratigraphic charcoal data) and climate data from NW Minnesota. Past decade- and century-scale fluctuations in climate correspond to changes in the disturbance regime. Probability of fire occurrence increases with time since the last fire, albeit at different rates during the various climatic settings that have prevailed over the last 750yr. Expected fire intervals derived as the inverse of the spatial proportion of area disturbed requires a stationary process. The space-time analogy assumed by this method is importantly wrong when the expected interval between disturbances changes over time. Because fire hazard is an increasing function of time since the last fire, the number of disturbances predicted to occur over short time intervals will be overestimated by the usual constant-hazard assumption. Probability densities of events having age-specific probabilities that increase over time (eg fire, windthrow) exhibit modes at time t>0 compared with exponential decrease with time. -from Author

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Clark, JS

Published Date

  • January 1, 1989

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 56 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 17 - 30

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0030-1299

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.2307/3566083

Citation Source

  • Scopus