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Bounded ranges of variation as a framework for future conservation and fire management


Address for correspondence: Max A. Moritz, 137 Mulford Hall MC 3114, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720.


Alterations in natural fire patterns have negatively affected fire-prone ecosystems in many ways. The historical range of variability (HRV) concept evolved as a management target for natural vegetation composition and fire regimes in fire-prone ecosystems. HRV-based management inherently assumes that ecosystem resilience is reflected in observed ranges of past vegetation and fire dynamics, typically without knowledge of where thresholds exist beyond these dynamics. Given uncertainty in future conditions, some have argued that HRV may not adequately reflect ecosystem resilience to future fire activity. We suggest a refinement that includes concepts from the thresholds of potential concern (TPC) framework, which emphasizes tipping points at the extremes of ecosystem dynamics and other socially unacceptable outcomes. We propose bounded ranges of variation (BRV), an approach focused on building resilience by using historical information, but also by identifying socio-ecological thresholds to avoid and associated management action triggers. Here, we examine nonnative species and carbon sequestration as examples of how the BRV framework could be used in the context of conservation and fire management.