Science to Support the Wildfire Crisis Strategy

The USFS recently sent out an R&D Special Issue, “Science to Support the Wildfire Crisis Strategy.” Lots of science on topics of our recent discussions. I hope this format will work….


Researchers and Fire Managers Strengthen Ties
An issue titled Developments in Wildland Fire Research in Fire Management Today compiles the latest advances in managing fire, measuring fuels and smoke, co-producing science on prescribed fire and understanding how fire interacts with other disturbances.
New Comprehensive Resource on Past, Present and Future Fire Ecology
Over 70 experts, including Forest Service scientists, managers and external partners wrote a broad synthesis on fire ecology for every major forest type in the U.S. The book outlines management options for reducing wildfire risk while maintaining biological diversity and ecosystem integrity.
A Critical Analysis of Plans to
Restore Forest Resilience
As we ramp up forest management to historic levels, many may wonder if these efforts can effectively reduce wildfire risk to communities. And will these efforts also create landscapes that are resilient to disturbance? A research team including Forest Service scientists asked these difficult questions in a recent in-depth synthesis. The authors conclude that a range of proactive, science-based management activities will be needed to keep up with changing trends in climate and wildfire.
Using Forest History as a Guide for Future Resilience
Ideally, future forests will be tolerant of climate change and other disturbances. Figuring out what these forests should look like is tricky. A recent study by Forest Service scientists and partners found that between 1911 and 2011, dry forests in the western U.S. became six to seven times more crowded and average tree size shrank by 50%. Based on historical conditions, the authors suggest that the key to future resilience is promoting low density forests. This will reduce competition for resources among trees, allow them to grow larger and provide them with greater capacity to withstand disturbance.
Do Communities Trust Land Management Agencies?
To find out, Forest Service scientists surveyed five wildfire-prone communities in the western U.S. They learned that communities tended to trust more when they perceived competence and coordination among agencies. The authors suggest that managers focus on active communication, demonstrating competence and showing intent to act in the best interest of communities.
Delivering Smoke Science
Directly to People
The AirFire Research Team is part of a collaborative interagency program that studies wildland fire emissions, smoke and air quality. Their mission is to help public agencies and communities prepare for smoke impacts before wildfire occurs. They developed a real-time Smoke Map that is also available as a mobile app.
Wildfires are Becoming
More Active at Night
Forest Service scientists and partners used satellite imagery to monitor wildfire activity at night across the conterminous U.S. Between 2003 and 2020, they estimated a 20-50% increase in fire activity at night, which outpaced daytime increases. More intense and expansive night fire activity will likely accompany more large wildfires, posing additional danger to firefighters and communities.
When to Let Wildfires Burn?
One way to help restore fire-adapted ecosystems is to let wildfires do some of the work of prescribed fires. Deciding when not to fully suppress a wildfire is extremely complex, finds a recent review that includes a Forest Service co-author. Operational concerns and risk aversion were two important obstacles to managing wildfire in this way.

3 thoughts on “Science to Support the Wildfire Crisis Strategy”

  1. Last year’s Tamarack Fire was a good example of why it is a bad idea to let fires burn, during dry conditions, in the middle of fire season. I think there needs to be accountability when someone makes a bad decision in letting a fire burn. Surely, that idea should limit ‘let-burn’ decisions, in the summer months. *smirk*

  2. A little late but, regarding “Using Forest History as a Guide for Future Resilience,” what do they mean when they say “Current management practices often prescribe conditions that maintain full competition to guide development of desired forest conditions?” Ecological integrity and natural range of variation are supposed to produce resiliency, but would they produce prescriptions for “full competition?”

    Maybe that is another way of saying, “Historical relative SDI values suggest that treatments for restoring forest resilience may need to be much more intensive then (sic) the current focus on fuels reduction,” but they still must be designed to achieve ecological integrity. And just to be clear, the observed 50% reduction in average tree size should prevent anyone from interpreting their recommendation as a reason to further reduce large trees in the name of reducing density.


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