Modelling and mapping dynamic variability in large fire probability in the lower Sonoran Desert of south-western Arizona

Miranda E. Gray, Brett G. Dickson, Luke J. Zachmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In the lower Sonoran Desert of south-western Arizona, climate change and non-native plant invasions have the potential to increase the frequency and size of uncommon wildfires. An understanding of where and why ignitions are more likely to become large fires will help mitigate the negative consequences of fire to native ecosystems. We use a generalised linear mixed model and fire occurrence data from 1989 to 2010 to estimate the relative contributions of fuel and other landscape variables to large fire probability, given an ignition. For the 22-year period we examined, a high value for the maximum annual Normalised Difference Vegetation Index was among the strongest predictors of large fire probability, as were low values of road density and elevation. Large fire probability varied markedly between years of moderate and high fine fuel accumulation. Our estimates can be applied to future periods with highly heterogeneous precipitation. Our map-based results can be used by managers to monitor variability in large fire probability, and to implement adaptive fire mitigation at a landscape scale. The approaches we present have global applications to other desert regions that face similar threats from changing climate, altered fuels and potential punctuated changes in fire regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1108-1118
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2014


  • NDVI.
  • desert fire management
  • fire cycle
  • generalised linear mixed model
  • invasive plant
  • multi-model inference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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