The role of fire disturbance for global vegetation dynamics: coupling fire into a Dynamic Global Vegetation Model


Kirsten Thonicke, Potsdam Institut für Klimafolgenforschung e.V. (PIK), Postfach 60 12 03, Telegrafenberg, D-14412 Potsdam, Germany.


  • 1Disturbances from fire, wind-throw, insects and other herbivores are, besides climate, CO2, and soils, critical factors for composition, structure and dynamics of most vegetation. To simulate the influence of fire on the dynamic equilibrium, as well as on potential change, of vegetation at the global scale, we have developed a fire model, running inside the modular framework of the Lund–Potsdam–Jena Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (LPJ-DGVM).
  • 2Estimated litter moisture is the main driver of day-to-day fire probability. The length of the fire season is used to estimate the fractional area of a grid cell which is burnt in a given year. This affected area is converted into an average fire return interval which can be compared to observations.
  • 3When driven by observed climate for the 20th century (at a 0.5° longitude/latitude resolution), the model yielded fire return intervals in good agreement with observations for many regions (except parts of semiarid Africa and boreal Siberia). We suggest that further improvement for these regions must involve additional process descriptions such as permafrost and fuel/fire dynamics.