As part of an interdisciplinary initiative at UCSB, we have extended a coupled hydrologic and ecosystem process model (RHESSys-Fire) to include simulation of fire regimes. 

RHESSys-Fire integrates best-available ecosystem and hydrologic science, emerging remote sensing datasets and state-of-the art compute science and visualization techniques, These tools assess how climate, water, fire, forests and other vegetation interact and change – and how the actions that we take may influence these interactions. 

Key features of RHESSys-Fire include the lateral redistribution of water to account for upslope-downslope hydrologic linkages (e.g. wetter riparian areas), a multi-scale approach that allows us to account for within stand features such as the distribution of gaps, overstory and understory relationship, competition for water and light of neighboring trees, and across hillslope variation in radiation, temperature, and other meteorological forcing conditions.

RHESSys-Fire simulates:

  • Key Hydrologic Processes:
    • runoff production,
    • groundwater recharge,
    • canopy, soil and litter evaporation,
    • transpiration, infiltration,
    • shallow subsurface lateral flow
  • Key Vegetation Biogeochemical cycling Processes:
    • photosynthesis,
    • respiration,
    • allocation and growth,
    • drought-mortality
  • Key Soil/Litter Biogeochemical cycling Processes:
    • decomposition,
    • mineralization,
    • denitrification,
    • nitrification soil carbon sequestration
  • Key Fire Regime Processes:
    • Fire spread,
    • fire effects including litter, overstory and understory losses,
    • volatilization,
    • vegetation mortality,
    • ladder fuels
  • Spatial patterns:
    • hot-spots,
    • refugia,
    • riparian area
  • Climate change and land management scenarios (including fuel treatments)

RHESSys-Fire integrates:

  • Point observations:
    • streamflow,
    • tree rings,
    • carbon flux
  • Remote sensing products
  • Advances in ecologic, hydrologic and social-economic theory

Visualization: We are actively working on a prototype to visualize RHESSys-Fire generated scenarios as a 3D interactive game (Future Mountain)

See Publications for detailed description of model (RHESSys-Fire) and example applications