Climate & Fire & Adaptation
These abstracts of recent papers on rangeland management in the West were prepared by Charlie Clements, Rangeland Scientist, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Reno, NV.
Description: The Network for Landscape Conservation is pleased to be partnering with the California Landscape Stewardship Network to host a virtual policy forum to highlight needed investments in science and collaborative processes to meet contemporary biodiversity, climate and culture conservation goals. Investments in science and networks for biodiversity, climate, & cultural conservation goals: Collaborative landscape conservation and stewardship is increasingly important as our country faces emerging challenges to address climate change, protect and restore biodiversity, create a more just and inclusive conservation paradigm, conserve working lands, and rebuild our economy. The purpose of this national forum is to convene leadership with diverse perspectives in a strategic conversation on the capacities and policies needed to develop and apply landscape scale science and planning. This conversation is timely. As the nation grapples with emerging opportunities and approaches to conserve and steward our nation’s lands and waters, it is important to understand how science and local knowledge can inform the ways we steward our nation’s lands and waters, and how to strengthen the role of networks as they foster collaborative decision-making at different scales.
Presenters: Wade Crowfoot, Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency will offer a keynote address and moderate a panel discussion with the following panelists:
Jeff Allenby – Director of Geospatial Technology for the Center for Geospatial Solutions, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
Bray Beltrán – Science Director, Heart of the Rockies Initiative
Leroy Little Bear – Blackfoot researcher and Professor Emeritus, University of Lethbridge, Kainai First Nation
Deb Rocque – Assistant Director of the Science Applications Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Presentations will be April 14, 21, and 28 and May 5 and 12 at 10 am PDT.
Wildfire ravaged much of the western United States in 2020. Towns were destroyed, homes and businesses evacuated, forests incinerated, and lives lost. In Oregon, vast swaths of rural communities like Talent and Detroit were devastated by sweeping megafires. But every Oregonian was impacted by widespread evacuations, life-threatening smoke, damage to vineyards and other crops, and staggering costs siphoning critical tax dollars away from other essential public services. As with all matters related to climate change, the greatest impacts were on our most vulnerable communities: low-income families, communities of color, the sick, the elderly, and the young. These megafires also accelerated their climate effects, with carbon emissions from wildfires in the U.S. alone increasing 30% over the previous year. The 2020 season was the latest record-breaking year in the West, continuing a 20-year trend that is only worsening. But there is hope. As wildfire impacts broaden, so has the coalition of parties seeking solutions. Small town mayors and tribal leaders, experts in public health and social justice, CEOs and scientists are speaking up. World Forestry Center is convening representatives from this broadening coalition in a five-part virtual summit focused on the Oregon example.
The relative influence of climate change and fire exclusion vary with soil moisture, which itself is influenced by climate and local topography:
- Burn probability along a soil aridity gradient for Trail Creek and Johnson Creek, with and without climate change, and with and without fire exclusion. Climate change increased burn probability by drying fuels in the most mesic locations (i.e., locations where temporally averaged soil moisture was high; see difference between blue and orange lines, highlighted by the upward pointing arrow). In the most arid locations, climate change promoted drought stress and reduced fine fuel loads, which in turn reduced burn probability.
- Climate change increased burn probability and led to larger, more frequent fires in locations where soil aridity was relatively low (i.e., time-averaged soil moisture >35%).
- In the most arid locations (i.e., time-averaged soil moisture <25%), climate change promoted drought stress and reduced fine fuel loads, which in turn reduced burn probability.
- In locations with intermediate soil aridity (25-35%), the effects of climate change and fire suppression varied in response to local trade-offs between aridity (which makes fuels more flammable) and productivity (which increases fuel loads).
Even within watersheds, at fine scales, risk management must be spatially and temporally explicit to optimize effects
On April 6-8, 2021 the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group hosted the 11th Northwest Climate Conference (NWCC) as a fully virtual conference. This conference has provided a networking and learning community for practitioners, scientists, tribal members, and community organizers interested in climate change impacts and adaptation in the Northwest for over a decade. The NWCC is committed to supporting equitable climate adaptation outcomes and building equity and diversity in climate science, policy, and adaptation practice. We encourage our conference attendees and presenters to advance the conversation around climate justice both as a stand alone topic and across the many other topics and themes profiled in the conference. If you are working to build a climate-resilient Northwest, this conference is for you.
Description: Wildfires have burned in the American West from time out of mind, well before humans entered the region. But recent years have seen an unprecedented explosion in the size and number of fires. They have scorched millions of acres, claimed thousands of lives, inflicted billions in property losses, spewed tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and polluted the air for millions of westerners. This symposium will address the causes and costs of western wildfires, and will explore possible futures for regional fire-management.
Panelists: Kimiko Barret – Research and Policy Analyst, Headwaters Economics
Kari Nadeau – Director, Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research
Stephen Pyne – Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University
Wade Crowfoot – Secretary, California Natural Resources Agency
Hilary Franz – Commissioner, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Jared Polis – Governor, State of Colorado
The 2015 Paris Agreement led to a number of studies that assessed the impact of the 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C increases in global temperature over preindustrial levels. However, those assessments have not actively investigated the impact of these levels of warming on fire weather. In view of a recent series of high-profile wildfire events worldwide, we access fire weather sensitivity based on a set of multi-model large ensemble climate simulations for these low-emission scenarios. The results indicate that the half degree difference between these two thresholds may lead to a significantly increased hazard of wildfire in certain parts of the world, particularly the Amazon, African savanna and Mediterranean. Although further experiments focused on human land use are needed to depict future fire activity, considering that rising temperatures are the most influential factor in augmenting the danger of fire weather, limiting global warming to 1.5 °C would alleviate some risk in these parts of the world.
Warmer, drier and longer fire seasons in the Northwest have led to larger and more frequent wildfires. These changes in fire activity, combined with warmer and drier post-fire conditions, have in turn led to growing concern that in some areas of the Northwest, particularly in forests and shrublands east of the Cascade Range, existing plant communities may face difficulty regrowing and persisting following fire.
Today, American conservation confronts the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, a global pandemic, skeptics of these threats, a massive federal deficit, economic hardship, social injustice, and political divisions that threaten our democracy. Yet, at the same time, people continue to explore new ways to work together to use science, collaboration, and innovation to advance efforts to protect our environment, conserve our natural resource legacy, and broaden its benefits for all Americans.
In 2009, at the behest of Congress, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the US Department of the Interior (DOI) were asked to develop a national, government-wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems. In doing so, the Federal Government recognized the immensity of climate change impacts on the Nation’s vital natural resources, as well as the critical need for partnership among federal, state, and tribal fish and wildlife agencies. More than 90 diverse technical, scientific, and management experts from across the country participated in the development and, in 2012, the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (Strategy) was published. Designed to “inspire and enable natural resource managers, legislators, and other decision makers to take effective steps towards climate change adaptation over the next five to ten years,” the time has come for the natural resource community to consider the impact of the Strategy, while identifying the necessary evolution of it, to continue to effectively safeguard the Nation’s natural resources in a changing climate.