Fires are the major disturbances in the Greater Hinggan Mountains, the only boreal forest in Northeast China. A comprehensive understanding of the fire regimes and influencing environmental parameters driving them from small to large fires is critical for effective forest fire prevention and management. Assisted with satellite imagery, topographic data, and climatic records in this region, this study examines its fire regimes in terms of ignition causes, frequencies, seasonality, and burned sizes in the period of 1980–2005. We found an upward trend for fire occurrences and burned areas and an elongated fire season over the three decades. The dates of the first fire in a year did not vary largely but those of the last fire were significantly delayed. Topographically, spring fires were prevalent throughout the entire region, while summer fires mainly occurred at higher elevations under severe drought conditions. Fall fires were mostly human-caused in areas at lower elevations with gentle terrains. An ordinal logistic regression revealed temperature and elevation were both significant factors to the fire size severity in spring and summer. Other than that, environmental impacts were different. Precipitation in the preceding year greatly influenced spring fires, while summer fires were significantly affected by wind speed, fuel moisture, and human accessibility. An important message from this study is that distinct seasonal variability and a significantly increasing number of summer and fall fires since the mid-1990s suggest a changing fire regime of the boreal forests in the study area. The observed and modeled results could provide insights on establishing a sustainable, localized forest fire prevention strategy in a seasonal manner.
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