Research and Publications

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Scientist engagement with boundary organizations and knowledge coproduction: A case study of the Southwest Fire Science Consortium

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Overall, scientists more engaged with SWFSC reported involvement in a wider variety of knowledge coproduction activities. However, some knowledge coproduction activities, especially those requiring greater time investment or facing institutional barriers (e.g., research collaboration) were less common among all participants. Most scientists involved in knowledge coproduction believed that SWFSC increased their participation in these activities outside the boundary organization context, in part because SWFSC provided opportunities to interact with and understand the needs of managers/practitioners, as well as build research collaborations. Findings indicate that boundary organizations, such as SWFSC, can foster knowledge coproduction, but that they may need to further explore ways to address challenges for knowledge coproduction activities that involve greater time commitment or institutional challenges.

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Statistical considerations of nonrandom treatment applications reveal region-wide benefits of widespread post-fire restoration action

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From following more than 1,500 wildfires, we find treatments were disproportionately applied in more stressful, degraded ecological conditions. Failure to incorporate unmeasured drivers of treatment allocation led to the conclusion that costly, widespread seedings were unsuccessful; however, after considering sources of bias, restoration positively affected sagebrush recovery. Treatment effects varied with climate, indicating prioritization criteria for interventions. Our findings revise the perspective that post-fire sagebrush seedings have been broadly unsuccessful and demonstrate how selection biases can pose substantive inferential hazards in observational studies of restoration efficacy and the development of restoration theory.

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Can prescribed fires mitigate health harm?

In this report, we summarize existing research on the air quality and human health impacts of wildfire and prescribed fire. This report is intended to inform policy solutions that support safe and effective prescribed fire, and that reduce the scale of health impacts caused by smoke from catastrophic wildfires. Beyond the scope of this report are other fire management and mitigation strategies (e.g., forest thinning, pile burns, the use of thinned biomass for energy production), and other forms of prescribed fire used for purposes other than fire management (e.g., agricultural burning). Additionally, occupational wildfire-related exposures of firefighters and emergency responders are beyond the scope of this report.

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Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality: Causal factors and management implications

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At both sites climatic water deficit (CWD), a cumulative measure of moisture stress, and mean annual temperature increased during the 2010 decade and CWD was the highest in 2020 relative to any time during the past 40 years. Although Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality has not previously been attributed to bark beetles, we observed recent (i.e., 2013 to 2020) bark beetle-attacked trees at both sites, coincident with the timing of increasing temperature and CWD. Few adult beetles were produced, however, and our results support previous research that Great Basin bristlecone pine is a population sink for bark beetles. Because bark beetles are likely not self-sustaining in Great Basin bristlecone pine, bark beetle-caused mortality of this iconic species will most likely occur when it grows mixed with or near other pine species that support bark beetle population growth. We found Ips confusus and Dendroctonus ponderosae attacking Great Basin bristlecone pine in areas where their host trees, P. monophylla and P. flexilis, were also growing. These results suggest that the presence of these infested conifers likely contributed to Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality. We highlight several factors that may be used for prioritizing future research and monitoring to facilitate development of management strategies for protecting this iconic species.

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An analysis of factors influencing structure loss resulting from the 2018 Camp Fire

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Results were largely consistent with previously literature, finding that structural hardness factors (e.g. double-paned windows, enclosed eaves, ignition-resistant roofs and siding, no vents, etc.) are important in determining structure survival. Newer structures, built after California’s recent (2005 and 2007) fire safe building code updates, were more likely to survive, as were homes with higher improvement values. Mobile homes were far more likely to be destroyed. The role of fuel mitigation around structures was less conclusive; defensible space clearance had only a weak association with structure survival, although DINS+DSPACE results suggested a slight reduction in risk due to removing leaves and needles from gutters/roofs and keeping surrounding dead grass mowed.

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Post-fire succession of seeding treatments in relation reference communities in the Great Basin

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Local unburned reference communities had fewer herbaceous perennials and higher woody cover than NRCS reference communities, suggesting departure from conditions expected under minimal post-settlement disturbance. USCs became more similar to reference communities over time, though less so at a site with abundant invasive annuals. Trajectories of seeded treatments were driven by seed mix species, with native-only mixes approaching reference communities more closely than mixes with non-natives.

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Congressional Budget Office analyzes trends in wildfire activity over the last 30 years

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The average annual acreage burned by wildfires in the United States has increased over the past 30 years, affecting both federal and nonfederal lands. In this report, the Congressional Budget Office analyzes trends in wildfire activity; considers the effects of wildfires on the federal budget, the environment, people’s health, and the economy; and reviews forest-management practices meant to reduce the likelihood and seriousness of fire-related disasters.

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Organizational influence on the co-production of fire science: Overcoming challenges and realizing opportunities

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Research organizations like Rocky Mountain Research Station may be able to institutionalize co-production by adjusting the way they incentivize and evaluate researchers, increasing investment in science delivery and scientific personnel overall, and supplying long-term funding to support time-intensive collaborations. These sorts of structural changes could help transform the culture of fire science so that coproduction is valued alongside more conventional scientific activities and products.

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Policy reforms for Rx fire liability relief and catastrophe funds

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This paper argues that the expansion of prescribed fire will require new public policies that both protect burn practitioners from liability and compensate for losses from potential fire escapes.

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Co-management during crisis: Insights from jurisdictionally complex wildfires

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In this paper, researchers seek to address this question based on interviews with leaders engaged in the management of jurisdictionally complex wildfire incidents. They propose a multi-level framework for conceiving co-management as strategic efforts of individual actors to cooperatively manage perceived interdependencies with others through one or more formal or informal institutional arrangements. They then demonstrate the value of the proposed framework in its ability to organize a series of questions for diagnosing co-management situations within the context of jurisdictionally complex wildfires.

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