Decision Support

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Patterns of wildfire risk in the US as characterized by land managers

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In this study, patterns of wildfire risk were explored from operational relative risk assessments (RRA) completed by land managers on 5087 wildfires from 2010 to 2017 in every geographic area of the USA. The RRA is the formal risk assessment used by land managers to develop strategies on emerging wildfires when concerns and issues related to wildfire management are in real-time. Only 38% of these wildfires were rated as high risk and 28% had high ratings for values at risk. Large regional variations were evident, with the West Coast regions selecting high risk and the South-west and Eastern regions selecting low risk. There were finer-scale influences on perceived risk when summarized on a jurisdictional level. Finally, risk summarized by USA agencies showed that the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service selected high risk less frequently compared with other agencies. By illuminating patterns of risk, this research intends to stimulate examination of the social, cultural, and physiographic factors influencing conceptions of risk.

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Fireshed Registry: Fireshed and project area boundaries for the continental US

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The Fireshed Registry is a geospatial dashboard and decision tool built to organize information about wildfire transmission to communities and monitor progress towards risk reduction for communities from management investments. The concept behind the Fireshed Registry is to identify and map the source of risk rather than what is at risk across all lands in the continental United States. While the Fireshed Registry was organized around mapping the source of fire risk to communities, the framework does not preclude the assessment of other resource management priorities and trends such as water, fish and aquatic or wildlife habitat, or recreation. The Fireshed Registry is also a multi-scale decision tool for quantifying, prioritizing, and geospatially displaying wildfire transmission to buildings in adjacent or nearby communities.

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Risk Management Assistance (RMA) Dashboard

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The RMA Dashboard is a series of tabs to products to help line officers, agency administrators, fire managers, incident management teams, area commands, geographic area coordination centers, and multi-agency coordination groups to make more risk-informed decisions to achieve safer and improved outcomes. These additional analytics are not a replacement for locally-derived and calibrated decision thresholds or procedures as outlined in manual direction (e.g., the WFDSS Decision, Fire Danger Operating Plans). However, it is hoped that these new products can be infused into pre- and post-planning and incident response systems, procedures, and documentation, like the WFDSS Course of Action or Rationale.

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Fire-weather drivers of severity and spread: Learning from past fire patterns to inform future wildfire decision making

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Fire is an essential component in restoring and maintaining a healthy forest. However, historic land use and decades of fire suppression has excluded fire from millions of forested hectares across much of the western United States, including the Grand Canyon National Park. Forest restoration at the Grand Canyon aims to reduce wildfire vulnerability by applying fire to diversify or remove forest vegetation. However, the cost, complexity, and concerns associated with managing fire for resource benefit requires that fire managers utilize and implement locally-relevant, science-based knowledge to strategically identify when and where to use fire to produce the greatest benefits. This research specifically addresses the National Park Service, Fire Management Leadership Board priority area of: Research that assists in removing stumbling blocks and hurdles for implementing fuels treatments and managing wildfires for resource objectives. We observed fire behavior in the Grand Canyon in conjunction with topographic variation and weather conditions to provide thresholds that affect fire severity and spread that may be beneficial or incompatible with multiple resource objectives. In doing so, we also developed customized tools that can be used to assist with fire management planning and quickly identifying conditions likely to affect fire behavior at Grand Canyon National Park.

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Thinking about adaptation: Exploring the Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) framework

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Ecosystems are transforming under climate change, with substantial shifts in ecological processes and important ecosystem services occurring at unprecedented rates. As systems approach socio-economic and ecological thresholds, our current management toolbox has proved to be incomplete for conservation and the sustainable provision of ecosystem services, including fisheries production and the wildlife habitat. Multiple approaches are therefore needed to address the varying uncertainties we face in this increasingly non-stationary world. Managers navigating ecosystem transformation can benefit from considering broader objectives beyond a traditional focus on resisting ecosystem change, by also considering whether accepting change or directing it along a preferred pathway might be more appropriate (RAD framework).

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Challenges to determining and demonstrating efficiency of large fire management- A review

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Characterising the impacts of wildland fire and fire suppression is critical information for fire management decision-making. Here, we focus on decisions related to the rare larger and longer-duration fire events, where the scope and scale of decision-making can be far broader than initial response efforts, and where determining and demonstrating efficiency of strategies and actions can be particularly troublesome. We organize our review around key decision factors such as context, complexity, alternatives, consequences and uncertainty, and for illustration contrast fire management in Andalusia, Spain, and Montana, USA. Two of the largest knowledge gaps relate to quantifying fire impacts to ecosystem services, and modelling relationships between fire management activities and avoided damages. The relative magnitude of these and other concerns varies with the complexity of the socioecological context in which fire management decisions are made. To conclude our review, we examine topics for future research, including expanded use of the economics toolkit to better characterize the productivity and effectiveness of suppression actions, integration of ecosystem modelling with economic principles, and stronger adoption of risk and decision analysis within fire management decision-making.

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Human dimensions of spatial, pre-wildfire planning decision support: Barriers, facilitators, and recommendations

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Respondents identified numerous barriers, as well as recommendations for improving decision support systems (DSS) development and integration, specifically with respect to capacity, communication, implementation, question identification, testing, education and training, and policy, guidance, and authorities. These recommendations can inform DSS use for wildfire risk assessment and treatment prioritization to meet the goals of national policies and frameworks. Lastly, a framework for organizing spatial, pre-wildfire planning DSSs to support end-user understanding and use is provided.

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State-and-transition-simulation-modeling in real-life: A 3-part miniseries

This 3-part modeling miniseries takes a wide-ranging look at State-and-Transition-Simulation-Models (STSMs) and use the LANDFIRE BpS models as a launching point for inquiry about ecosystem change over time. It communicates practical ways to use STSM in real-life research, management and academia.

Part 1 Recording: Kori Blankenship (LANDFIRE Fire Ecologist) will discuss the basics of (STSMs), introduce the LANDFIRE BpS models and share resources for both novice and intermediate state-and-transition modelers.

Part 2 Recording: Leonardo Frid (Systems Ecologist at Apex Resource Management Solutions) will showcase real-life STSM applications with the ST-Sim package for SyncroSim, demonstrate how to use both the Graphical User Interface and rsyncrosim R package and discuss different approaches for applying state and transition modeling tools in real-life management scenarios.

Part 3 Recording: Randy Swaty (LANDFIRE Ecologist) & Dr. Priscilla Nyamai (Asst. Professor, Grand Valley State Univ.) will discuss how integrating STSMs in the classroom can be useful for conceptualizing ecosystem changes.

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USGS Wildland Fire Science Strategic Plan, 2021-26

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The Strategic Plan also defines critical, core fire science capabilities for understanding fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns and informing management decision making. The Strategic Plan is composed of four integrated priorities, each with associated goals and specific strategies for accomplishing the goals:

  • Priority 1: Produce state-of-the-art, actionable fire science.—Provide scientific analyses, data, and tools that inform current and future fire and land management decision making and promote understanding of fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns.
  • Priority 2: Engage stakeholders in science production and science delivery.—Use a science co-production approach throughout the fire research life cycle to develop and maintain collaborations with stakeholders who are actively and continually engaged. This ensures that USGS research platforms and science products are relevant and useful for fire and land management decision making.
  • Priority 3: Effectively communicate USGS fire science capacity, products, and information to a broad audience.— Strategically manage communications to effectively build awareness of and access to USGS wildland fire science and decision-support tools among key external and internal stakeholders.
  • Priority 4: Enhance USGS organizational structure and advance support for fire science.—Provide organizational structure and support that improves fire science production, coordination, and cooperation within the USGS and with external partners.
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Using information from global climate models to inform policymaking

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Description: Climate change is a risk management challenge for society because of the uncertain consequences for natural and human systems across decades to centuries. Climate-related science activities within the USGS emphasize research on adaptation to climate change. This research helps inform adaptive management processes and planning activities within other DOI bureaus and by DOI stakeholders.

Global climate models are sophisticated numerical representations of the Earth’s climate system. Research groups from around the world regularly participate in a coordinated effort to produce a suite of climate models. This global effort provides a test bed to assess model performance and analyze projections of future change under various prescribed climate scenarios. These climate scenarios describe a plausible future outcome associated with a specific set of societal actions. Examining a range of projected climate outcomes based on multiple scenarios is a recommended best practice because it allows decision makers to better consider both short- and long-term risks and opportunities.

Presenter: Adam Terando, Research Ecologist, Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center

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