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Alexandra Syphard

Alexandra Syphard

PhD

About

131
Publications
63,602
Reads
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8,372
Citations
Citations since 2017
47 Research Items
6036 Citations
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201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,200
Additional affiliations
September 2018 - March 2020
Sage Insurance
Position
  • Principal Investigator
June 2007 - present
Conservation Biology Institute
Position
  • Senior Researcher
May 2005 - August 2007
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Position
  • PostDoc Position

Publications

Publications (131)
Article
Full-text available
Significance Projections of worsening wildfire conditions under climate change are a major concern in policy and management, but there is little understanding of geographical variation in fire-climate relationships. Our analysis relating climate variables to historical fire activity across the United States showed substantial variability in the imp...
Article
Full-text available
Significance Global terrestrial vegetation plays a critical role in biogeochemical cycles and provides important ecosystem services. Vegetation has been altered by anthropogenic global change drivers including land-use change, altered disturbance regimes, invasive species, and climate change, for decades to centuries, or in some cases millennia. Ve...
Article
Survival of early life stages is key for population expansion into new locations and for persistence of current populations (Harper and others 1977, Grubb 1977). Relative to adults, these early life stages are very sensitive to climate fluctuations (Ropert-Coudert et al. 2015), which often drive episodic or “event-limited” regeneration (e.g. pulses...
Article
Full-text available
Surging wildfires across the globe are contributing to escalating residential losses and have major social, economic, and ecological consequences. The highest losses in the U.S. occur in southern California, where nearly 1000 homes per year have been destroyed by wildfires since 2000. Wildfire risk reduction efforts focus primarily on fuel reductio...
Article
Full-text available
Periodic wildfire maintains the integrity and species composition of many ecosystems, including the mediterranean-climate shrublands of California. However, human activities alter natural fire regimes, which can lead to cascading ecological effects. Increased human ignitions at the wildland-urban interface (WUI) have recently gained attention, but...
Article
Full-text available
Many plant species are likely to face population decline or even extinction in the coming century, especially those with a limited distribution and inadequate dispersal relative to the projected rates of climate change. The obligate seeding California endemic, Ceanothus perplexans is especially at risk, and depending on how climate change interacts...
Article
Full-text available
Background Forest and nonforest ecosystems of the western United States are experiencing major transformations in response to land-use change, climate warming, and their interactive effects with wildland fire. Some ecosystems are transitioning to persistent alternative types, hereafter called “vegetation type conversion” (VTC). VTC is one of the mo...
Article
Background California’s South Coast has experienced peak burned area in autumn. Following typically dry, warm summers, precipitation events and Santa Ana winds (SAWs) each occur with increasing frequency from autumn to winter and may affect fire outcomes. Aims We investigate historical records to understand how these counteracting influences have a...
Article
Full-text available
As human impacts from wildfires mount, there is a pressing need to understand why structures are lost in destructive fires. Despite growing research on factors contributing to structure loss, fewer studies have focused on why some fires are destructive and others are not. We characterized overall differences between fires that resulted in structure...
Article
Full-text available
Fire is an integral component of ecosystems globally and a tool that humans have harnessed for millennia. Altered fire regimes are a fundamental cause and consequence of global change, impacting people and the biophysical systems on which they depend. As part of the newly emerging Anthropocene, marked by human-caused climate change and radical chan...
Article
Fire is an integral component of ecosystems globally and a tool that humans have harnessed for millennia. Altered fire regimes are a fundamental cause and consequence of global change, impacting people and the biophysical systems on which they depend. As part of the newly emerging Anthropocene, marked by human-caused climate change and radical chan...
Article
Full-text available
Drought contributed to extensive dieback of southern California chaparral, and normalized difference vegetation index before drought and near the end of the drought was used to estimate this dieback, after accounting for other disturbances recorded in aerial photographs. Within the perimeters of two megafires that occurred after the drought, the 20...
Preprint
Full-text available
Ecosystem collapse in direct response to climate change is a critical but poorly documented phenomenon. By assessing the climate context and productivity trends in Mediterranean ecosystems worldwide, we found a large-scale, abrupt forest decline in Chile (>90% in <100 days) as response to a sustained, acute drought unprecedented in the recent histo...
Article
Wildland–urban interfaces (WUIs), the juxtaposition of highly and minimally developed lands, are an increasingly prominent feature on Earth. WUIs are hotspots of environmental and ecological change that are often priority areas for planning and management. A better understanding of WUI dynamics and their role in the coupling between cities and surr...
Article
One consequence of global change causing widespread concern is the possibility of ecosystem conversions from one type to another. A classic example of this is vegetation type conversion (VTC) from native woody shrublands to invasive annual grasslands in the biodiversity hotspot of southern California. Although the significance of this problem is we...
Article
Full-text available
Background California in the year 2020 experienced a record breaking number of large fires. Here, we place this and other recent years in a historical context by examining records of large fire events in the state back to 1860. Since drought is commonly associated with large fire events, we investigated the relationship of large fire events to drou...
Article
Full-text available
Invasive grass species can alter fire regimes, converting native terrestrial ecosystems into non‐native, grass‐dominated landscapes, creating a self‐reinforcing cycle of increasing fire activity and flammable grass expansion. Analyses of this phenomenon tend to focus on the ecology and geography of the grass–fire cycle independent of human activiti...
Article
Full-text available
From a conservation perspective, quantifying potential refugial capacity has been predominantly focused on climate refugia, which is critical for maintaining the persistence of species and ecosystems. However, protection from other stressors, like human‐induced changes in fire and hydrology, that cause habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation ar...
Article
Full-text available
Agencies are busy within California developing prioritization strategies to increase the pace and scale of forest treatment in an effort to reduce damage to ecosystems and people by large severe wildfire. A tacit assumption of this effort is that building forest resilience to wildfire will resolve California’s extreme wildfire challenge. Specifical...
Article
Full-text available
Autumn and winter Santa Ana wind (SAW)-driven wildfires play a substantial role in area burned and societal losses in southern California. Temperature during the event and antecedent precipitation in the week or month prior play a minor role in determining area burned. Burning is dependent on wind intensity and number of human-ignited fires. Over 7...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The objective of this project was to use fire occurrence and perimeter data to evaluate the relative probability of wildfire ignition and occurrence of large fires across Santa Barbara county, California, under historical and projected future conditions. The resulting probability layers are intended to support a Regional Priority Plan to reduce wil...
Article
Full-text available
Recent increases in destructive wildfires are driving a need for empirical research documenting factors that contribute to structure loss. Existing studies show that fire risk is complex and varies geographically, and the role of vegetation has been especially difficult to quantify. Here, we evaluated the relative importance of vegetation cover at...
Article
Full-text available
Fire's growing impacts on ecosystems Fire has played a prominent role in the evolution of biodiversity and is a natural factor shaping many ecological communities. However, the incidence of fire has been exacerbated by human activity, and this is now affecting ecosystems and habitats that have never been fire prone or fire adapted. Kelly et al. rev...
Article
Full-text available
The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is the spatial manifestation of human communities coupled with vegetated ecosystems. Spatial delineation of the WUI is important for wildfire policy and management, but is typically defined according to spatial relationships between housing development and wildland vegetation without explicit consideration of fire...
Article
Full-text available
The fire regime is a central framing concept in wildfire science and ecology and describes how a range of wildfire characteristics vary geographically over time. Understanding and mapping fire regimes is important for guiding appropriate management and risk reduction strategies and for informing research on drivers of global change and altered fire...
Article
Full-text available
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century California, USA, has experienced a substantial increase in the frequency of large wildfires, often with extreme impacts on people and property. Due to the size of the state, it is not surprising that the factors driving these changes differ across this region. Although there are always multiple factor...
Article
Recent decades have witnessed an escalation in the social, economic, and ecological impacts of wildfires worldwide. Wildfire losses stem from the complex interplay of social and ecological forces at multiple scales, including global climate change, regional wildfire regimes altered by human activities, and locally managed wildland-urban interface (...
Article
Full-text available
Tens of thousands of structures and hundreds of human lives have been lost in recent fire events throughout California. Given the potential for these types of wildfires to continue, the need to understand why and how structures are being destroyed has taken on a new level of urgency. We compiled and analyzed an extensive dataset of building inspect...
Article
Full-text available
The native chaparral shrublands of Southern California support exceptional biodiversity and provide critical ecological services, but increased fire frequency threatens to extirpate much of the chaparral due to long regeneration times needed between fires for many species. When short fire intervals inhibit shrub recovery, this favors invasion of ex...
Article
Full-text available
Climate and land use patterns are expected to change dramatically in the coming century, raising concern about their effects on wildfire patterns and subsequent impacts to human communities. The relative influence of climate versus land use on fires and their impacts, however, remains unclear, particularly given the substantial geographical variabi...
Article
Full-text available
In many parts of the world, the combined effects of habitat fragmentation and altered disturbance regimes pose a significant threat to biodiversity. This is particularly true in Mediterranean-type ecosystems (MTEs), which tend to be fire-prone, species rich, and heavily impacted by human land use. Given the spatial complexity of overlapping threats...
Data
R and C++ Code for pareto ranking. (ZIP)
Data
Summary statistics and correlation coefficients for criteria. (DOCX)
Data
Illustrative example of pareto ranking. (DOCX)
Data
Additional information on threat and biodiversity criteria development. (DOCX)
Article
Full-text available
Understanding where and how fire patterns may change is critical for management and policy decision-making. To map future fire patterns, statistical correlative models are typically developed, which associate observed fire locations with recent climate maps, and are then applied to maps of future climate projections. A potential source of uncertain...
Data
Classification of LANDFIRE existing and MC2 dynamic vegetation types into broad classes. (DOCX)
Data
Values for climate variables used in statistical models for the study area and broken out by elevation. (CWD: climatic water deficit; PPT_ANN: annual precipitation; PPT_SUMM: summer precipitation; TMEAN_COV: temperature seasonality; TMIN: annual minimum temperature; Min: minimum, Max: maximum; StDev: standard deviation). (DOCX)
Data
Change in large fire probability versus the NoVeg scenario by scenario, time period, climate future, and vegetation type. (SD: standard deviation; Num Cells: number of cells within the study area with specified vegetation type). (DOCX)
Article
Full-text available
Aim In Southern California, native woody shrublands known as chaparral support exceptional biodiversity. However, large‐scale conversion of chaparral into largely exotic herbaceous cover is a major ecological threat and serious conservation concern. Due to substantial uncertainty regarding the causes and extent of this vegetation change, we aimed t...
Chapter
Full-text available
The low-elevation chaparral shrublands of southern California have long been occupied and modified by humans, but the magnitude and extent of human impact has dramatically increased since the early 1900s. As population growth started to boom in the 1940s, the primary form of habitat conversion transitioned from agriculture to urban and residential...
Article
Full-text available
Significance When houses are built close to forests or other types of natural vegetation, they pose two problems related to wildfires. First, there will be more wildfires due to human ignitions. Second, wildfires that occur will pose a greater risk to lives and homes, they will be hard to fight, and letting natural fires burn becomes impossible. We...
Article
Full-text available
State and federal agencies have reported fire causes since the early 1900s, explicitly for the purpose of helping land managers design fire-prevention programs. We document fire-ignition patterns in five homogenous climate divisions in California over the past 98 years on state Cal Fire protected lands and 107 years on federal United States Forest...
Article
Fire activity has increased in western US aridland ecosystems due to increased human-caused ignitions and the expansion of flammable exotic grasses. Because many desert plants are not adapted to fire, increased fire activity may have long-lasting ecological impacts on native vegetation and the wildlife that depend on it. Given the heterogeneity acr...
Article
Full-text available
The purchase of private land for conservation purposes is a common way to prevent the exploitation of sensitive ecological areas. However, private land conservation can also provide other benefits, one of these being natural hazard reduction. Here, we investigated the impacts of private land conservation on fire risk to homes in San Diego County, C...
Article
Full-text available
The relationship between annual variation in area burned and seasonal temperatures and precipitation was investigated for the major climate divisions in California. Historical analyses showed marked differences in fires on montane and foothill landscapes. Based on roughly a century of data, there are five important lessons on fire-climate relations...
Article
Full-text available
2016. Shrinking windows of opportunity for oak seedling establishment in southern California mountains. Ecosphere 7(11): Abstract. Seedling establishment is a critical step that may ultimately govern tree species' distribution shifts under environmental change. Annual variation in the location of seed rain and microclimates results in transient " w...
Article
Full-text available
Although wildfire plays an important role in maintaining biodiversity in many ecosystems, fire management to protect human assets is often carried out by different agencies than those tasked for conserving biodiversity. In fact, fire risk reduction and biodiversity conservation are often viewed as competing objectives. Here we explored the role of...
Article
Full-text available
Climate and weather have long been noted as playing key roles in wildfire activity, and global warming is expected to exacerbate fire impacts on natural and urban ecosystems. Predicting future fire regimes requires an understanding of how temperature and precipitation interact to control fire activity. Inevitably this requires historical analyses t...
Article
Full-text available
Plant distributions and vegetation dynamics underpin key global phenomena, including biogeochemical cycling, ecosystem productivity and terrestrial biodiversity patterns. Aggregated and remotely collected ‘big data’ are required to forecast the effects of global change on plant communities. We synthesize advances in developing and exploiting big da...
Presentation
Full-text available
Wildfire is an important ecological disturbance that affects the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), those neighborhoods where wildland vegetation has been retained. WUI fires destroy only a small proportion of the buildings within the fire perimeter; is vegetation to blame, for building destruction? We examined the relative roles of vegetation, topogr...
Article
Full-text available
Context Predicting climate-driven species’ range shifts depends substantially on species’ exposure to climate change. Mountain landscapes contain a wide range of topoclimates and soil characteristics that are thought to mediate range shifts and buffer species’ exposure. Quantifying fine-scale patterns of exposure across mountainous terrain is a key...
Article
Full-text available
Wildfire is globally an important ecological disturbance affecting biochemical cycles, and vegetation composition, but also puts people and their homes at risk. Suppressing wildfires has detrimental ecological effects and can promote larger and more intense wildfires when fuels accumulate, which increases the threat to buildings in the Wildland Urb...
Article
Full-text available
Context Wildfires destroy thousands of buildings every year in the wildland urban interface. However, fire typically only destroys a fraction of the buildings within a given fire perimeter, suggesting more could be done to mitigate risk if we understood how to configure residential landscapes so that both people and buildings could survive fire. Ob...
Article
Full-text available
Historical data are essential for understanding how fire activity responds to different drivers. It is important that the source of data is commensurate with the spatial and temporal scale of the question addressed, but fire history databases are derived from different sources with different restrictions. In California, a frequently used fire histo...