Research and Publications
Interactional approach to adaptive capacity: Researching adaptation in socially diverse, wildfire prone communities
This article outlines an approach for understanding the ways that local social context influences differential community adaptation to wildfire risk. I explain how my approach drew from Wilkinson’s interactional theory of community during various stages of its evolution and describe a series of advancements developed while extending the theory to promote collective action for wildfire. Extensions of Wilkinson’s work include organizing a range of adaptive capacity characteristics that help document differential community capacity for wildfire adaptation, introduction of “community archetypes” that reflect patterns of key adaptive capacity characteristics across cases, and development of fire adaptation “pathways” – combinations of policies, actions, and programs tailored to a range of community conditions.
Scientists identified the most pollinator-friendly plants to include in seed mixes for use in restoration projects in the Northern Rockies.
Our study found that fire perimeter source and fireline buffer width had the largest impact on quantified fireline effectiveness metrics. Misclassification of firelines produced dramatic erroneous results which artificially increased the effectiveness and decreased suppression effort. High-severity fires were shown to be less effective across all fireline types and required higher suppression than most low- and moderate-severity fires.
Use of the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) for full suppression and managed fires in the SW region of USFS
Users indicated that the program is viewed as efficient for sharing information about wildfires and documenting management decision rationale. They identified emerging gaps in technical proficiency and the need for specialised training that creates high-level users to help guide teams using the program.
Scientists developed a new tool to help wildland fire personel know if a safety zone is large enough to protect firefighters.
We developed and applied a spatial optimization algorithm to prioritize forest and fuel management treatments within a proposed linear fuel break network on a 0.5 million ha Western US national forest. The large fuel break network, combined with the logistics of conducting forest and fuel management, requires that treatments be partitioned into a sequence of discrete projects, individually implemented over the next 10–20 years. The original plan for the network did not consider how linear segments would be packaged into projects and how projects would be prioritized for treatments over time, as the network is constructed. Using our optimization algorithm, we
analyzed 13 implementation scenarios where size-constrained projects were prioritized based on predicted wildfire hazard, treatment costs, and harvest revenues.
High-severity burned area and proportion exceed historic conditions in Sierra Nevada, CA, and adjacent ranges
Although fire is a fundamental ecological process in western North American forests, climate warming and accumulating forest fuels due to fire suppression have led to wildfires that burn at high severity across larger fractions of their footprint than were historically typical. These trends have spiked upwards in recent years and are particularly pronounced in the Sierra Nevada–Southern Cascades ecoregion of California, USA, and neighboring states. We assessed annual area burned (AAB) and percentage of area burned at high and low-to-moderate severity for seven major forest types in this region from 1984 to 2020. We compared values for this period against estimates for the pre-Euro-American settlement (EAS) period prior to 1850 and against a previous study of trends from 1984 to 2009.
Black gravel increased mean temperatures of the surface soil by 1.6 and 2.6 °C compared to white gravel in Cheyenne and Boise, respectively, causing 21–24 more days with soil temperatures > 0 °C, earlier cheatgrass germination, and up to 2.8-fold increases in cheatgrass height. Higher seeding density of cheatgrass led to 1.4-fold taller plants on black gravel plots at both sites, but not white gravel at the Boise site, indicating a possible thermal benefit or reduction of water demand due to plant clustering in warmer treatments.
Here, we examine how the ventenata invasion alters simulated fire across forest-mosaic landscapes of the 7 million ha Blue Mountains Ecoregion using the large fire simulator (FSim) with custom fuel landscapes: present-day invaded versus historic uninvaded. Invasion increased simulated mean fire size, burn probability, and flame lengths throughout the ecoregion, and the strength of these impacts varied by location and scale. Changes at the ecoregion scale were relatively modest given that fine fuels increased in only 2.8% of the ecoregion where ventenata invaded historically fuel-limited vegetation types. However, strong localized changes were simulated
within invaded patches (primarily dwarf-shrublands) and where invasion facilitated fire spread into nearby forests.
Using soil moisture information to better understand and predict wildfire danger: A review of recent developments and outstanding questions
This review summarises a growing body of evidence indicating that greater use of in situ, remotely sensed, and modelled soil moisture information in fire danger rating systems could lead to better estimates of dynamic live and dead herbaceous fuel loads, more accurate live and dead fuel moisture predictions, earlier warning of wildfire danger, and better forecasts of wildfire occurrence and size. Potential uses of soil moisture information in existing wildfire danger rating systems include (1) as a supplement or replacement for drought indices, (2) for live and (3) dead fuel moisture modelling, (4) for estimating herbaceous fuel curing, and (5) for estimating fuel loads. We identify key remaining research questions and note the logistical challenge of convincing wildfire professionals of the importance of soil moisture compared with more familiar wildfire danger metrics. While obstacles remain, the path forward is clear. Soil moisture information can and should be used to improve fire danger rating systems and contribute to more effective fire management for the protection of communities and ecosystems worldwide.