Reconstructing historic fire activity with whitebark pine in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, northern British Columbia
There is a growing need for improved methods and approaches for managing wildfires in British Columbia, as uncharacteristically large wildfires exceed government capacities for control and suppression. The 2018 Tweedsmuir complex fire exceeded half a million hectares, negatively impacting several endangered species and the ecosystems they depend on. Tweedsmuir Provincial Park is one of BC’s largest protected areas and plays a critical role in connecting diverse landscapes and allowing plants and animals to move and adapt to climate change. To understand the frequency and spatial extent of historic wildfire activity within Tweedsmuir Park we reconstructed historic fire activity from eleven sites containing previously killed whitebark pine, an endangered tree species due to the combined impacts of biotic and abiotic disturbances. Our reconstruction extends our understanding of fire activity to 1600, indicating that frequent, low-severity and human-driven fire events in combination with sporadic lightning fires characterize the region. First Nations have used fire as a tool for resource management in Tweedsmuir Park for millennia and continue to be keepers of fire knowledge and stewards of biodiversity, ecosystem connectivity, and resiliency. As wildfire seasons grow longer, fire behavior is becoming more uncontrollable, and as we strive to adapt to a changing climate, current fire management systems are becoming stressed. It is more important than ever to have multiple experiences and voices participating in solving wildfire issues and contributing to long-term land management plans.