Climate & Fire & Adaptation
Generally, biological disturbance agents (BDAs) convert aboveground live biomass to dead biomass, decreasing canopy fuels and increasing surface fuels. However, the rate of conversion varies with time-since-event and among BDAs and forest types, resulting in a wide range of effects on the amount of dead fuels at any given time and place, which interacts with the structure and composition of the stand before and subsequent to BDA events. A major influence on fuels may be that BDAs have emerged as dominant agents of forest heterogeneity creation. Because BDAs play complex roles in fuels and fire heterogeneity across the western US which are further complicated by interactions with climate change, drought, and forest management (fire suppression), their impacts on fuels, fire and ecological consequences cannot be categorized simply as positive or negative but need to be evaluated within the context of BDA life histories and ecosystem dynamics.
Dr. Carlos Ochoa’s research focuses on connections between ecohydrological processes and human interactions in an ever-changing climate. Dr. Ochoa has numerous research projects, one of which is a long term study in central Oregon that has provided critical information regarding vegetation and hydrology interactions in western juniper dominated landscapes. This presentation will discuss some of the learnings from Dr. Ochoa’s work on western juniper.
Fire can be a useful tool for promoting migrations of shade-intolerant wind dispersed species such as aspen. Aspen successfully established in burned areas far from seed sources, so managers may choose to focus attention on other species in postburn reforestation.
Specifically, we examine the difference in wildfire probability in similar forests under different management regimes (federally managed vs. privately owned) in eleven western states from 1989–2016 and compare the magnitude of the management effect to the effect of climate variables. We find a greater probability of wildfires in federally managed forests than in privately owned forests, with a 127% increase in the absolute difference between the two management regimes over the 28 year time period. However, in 1989, federally managed forests were 2.67 times more likely to burn than privately owned forests, but in 2016, they were only 1.52 times more likely to burn. Finally, we find that the effect of the different management regimes is greater than the marginal (one-unit change) effect of most climate variables. Our results indicate that projections of future fire probability must account for both climate and management variables, while our methodology provides a framework for quantitatively comparing different drivers of change in complex social-ecological systems.
Join FAC Net and Travis Paveglio as they present the new Fire Adapted Communities Pathways Tool. The Fire Adapted Communities Pathways Tool helps users identify a range of fire adaptation practices and resources that research and experience indicate are more likely to work in the places they live.
Learn more about the tool (or download it in advance of the presentation) here: https://fireadaptednetwork.org/resources/fac-pathways-tool/
According to the August 2, 2022 U.S. Drought Monitor, 39.5% of the Pacific Northwest Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) is in drought. A very wet spring and early summer has greatly improved conditions compared to March, when over 70% of the region was in drought. However, a large part of Oregon is still in Extreme (D3)/Exceptional (D4) Drought, as are pockets in Idaho. This webinar will provide more information on the current conditions and outlooks, as well as two presentations on OpenET.
These webinars provide the region’s stakeholders and interested parties with timely information on current and developing drought conditions, as well as climatic events like El Niño and La Niña. Speakers will also discuss the impacts of these conditions on things such as wildfires, floods, disruption to water supply and ecosystems, as well as impacts to affected industries like agriculture, tourism, and public health.
We investigate priorities and effectiveness of wildfire suppression using a novel empirical strategy that compares 1,500 historical fire perimeters with the spatial distribution of assets at risk to identify determinants of wildfire suppression efforts. We find that fires are more likely to stop spreading as they approach homes, particularly when those homes are of higher value. This effect of threatened assets persists after controlling for physical factors (fuels, landscape, and weather) using outputs from a state-of-the-art wildfire simulation tool, and the probability that fire spread will be halted is affected by characteristics of homes 1–2 km from a fire’s edge. Our results provide evidence that wildfire suppression can substantively affect outcomes from wildfires but that some groups may benefit more from wildfire management than others.
Drawing on recent syntheses of the scientific evidence, this paper examines “myths” commonly used to
oppose climate- and wildfire-adaptation of fire-prone forests. We use an established framework
designed to counter science denial by recognizing the fallacy for each myth. Fallacies are false
arguments; there are several kinds of fallacies, including cherry picking (selecting only a portion of
facts to support a conclusion), false dichotomies or oversimplification (claiming only two possible
outcomes), circular arguments, or straw man (misdirection) arguments. Learning to recognize
logical fallacies and other characteristics of science denial is an essential component of any
assessment of arguments for and against proposed actions
Recent literature reviews and syntheses provide valuable references for land management practitioners and stakeholders engaged in designing, evaluating, and implementing scientifically credible wildfire- and climate-adaptation strategies. These syntheses are supported by thousands of peer-reviewed articles that evaluated the benefits and constraints of restoring fire to fire-dependent forest landscapes. This working paper summarizes key insights from the review of studies, described in detail below, that documented unprecedented, human-caused fire exclusion and its impacts on fire-dependent forest landscapes in western North America.
Results suggest that dry forest species are undergoing an active range shift driven by both changing recruitment and mortality, and that increasing temperatures and drought threaten the long-term viability of many of these species in their current range. While four of the five species examined were experiencing some declines, Pinus edulis is currently most vulnerable. Management actions such as reducing tree density may be able to mitigate some of these impacts. The framework we present to estimate range-wide demographic rates can be applied to other species to determine where range contractions are most likely.