Fire Ecology & Effects

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Prescribed fire shrub consumption in a Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer forest

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Shrub cover in two experimental stands prior to burning was 38% and 59% and was 36% and 45% one-year post burn. In both stands shrub patch density increased, while area-weighted mean patch size and largest patch index decreased. Increased local percent cover of coarse woody material was associated with increased shrub consumption. These findings provide information for prescribed fire managers to help better anticipate shrub consumption and patchiness outcomes under similar conditions.

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Restorative burning: Outcomes from the 2019 Caples fire

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Description: The Caples Fire, which began on September 30, 2019, burned 3,435 total acres (1,080-acre prescribed fire and 2,355-acres wildfire) within the Caples Creek Watershed Restoration Project planning area. This webinar will discuss the outcomes of the 2019 Caples Fire, fire effects on legacy trees, fire management take-home messages, volunteer efforts for restoration within the Caples watershed, and avian research within the Caples restoration area.

Presenters: Becky Estes (Central Sierra Province Ecologist, USDA Forest Service): Overview of the Caples Restoration Project
Lester Lubetkin (Co-Led Volunteer Effort, California Native Plant Society): Using Volunteers to Prepare Legacy Treesfor Prescribed Fire
Travis Thane (District Fire Management Officer, USDA Forest Service): Caples Fire Management and Facilitated Learning Analysis
Scott Dailey (Fire Ecologist, USDA Forest Service): Ecological Effects in the Caples Fire (First Order Fire Effects)
Durrell Kapan (Senior Research Fellow, California Academy of Sciences): Avian Response to Ecological Restoration of Resilience in the Caples Creek Watershed

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Interagency Burn Severity Portal

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This interagency burn severity portal provides comprehensive access to federal burn severity data. Information about the various burn severity mapping programs and access to current and historical data products are provided.

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Advanced burn boss workshop and fire science symposium

The Advanced Burn Boss Workshop and Fire Science Symposium (click “Log in as Guest” in the event portal) is a combined virtual event that will provide targeted training for burn bosses: RT300, IFTDSS, and smoke modeling, as well as interactive presentations for a wide audience that bridge research and practice using the three pillars of the Cohesive Strategy: Resilient Ecosystems, Fire Adapted Communities, and Safe and Effective Wildfire Response.

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Weekly CA fire science seminar series

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This online seminar series will cover the breadth of wildland fire research relevant to California and introduce researchers to new topics and research groups across the state. Topics will include fire weather, wildfire risk, fire ecology, remote sensing, emissions, fire dynamics, fire modeling and public health. Featuring many early-career researchers, this series is aimed at a highly interdisciplinary academic audience but is open to anyone interested in these topics.

View an up-to-date schedule here:

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9th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress

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The 9th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress, hosted by the Association for Fire Ecology in cooperation with Tall Timbers, will be held in the Florida Panhandle at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, November 30 to December 4, 2021. The Call for Proposals will be open in January 2021.

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Fire severity: Mapping past fires and predicting the future

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Area burned by wildland fire has been increasing since the mid-1980s across much of the US. But the effects of fire on vegetation and soil – what we call burn severity or fire severity – is maybe the more important measure, ecologically speaking. Stand-replacing, or high-severity fire, for example, is more likely than low-severity fire to negatively impact ecosystems by increasing post-fire erosion potential, catalyzing conversions from forest to non-forest, and reducing carbon stocks. While high-severity fire has its place in the natural cycles of some ecosystems, it also can pose societal problems by jeopardizing human safety and infrastructure. In this webinar, we will briefly describe new approaches to mapping the severity of past fires using satellite imagery and cloud-based computing. The main focus of this webinar, however, will highlight recent advancements in modeling and predictive mapping of near-future burn severity; the mapped products predict the probability of high-severity fire, if a fire were to occur. Maps characterizing fire severity, whether they characterize past fires or represent predictions of the near-future, provide important information for managers and scientists who are tasked with managing fuel and wildland fire.

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High-severity wildfire potential – associating meteorology, climate, resource demand and wildfire activity with preparedness levels

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National and regional preparedness level (PL) designations support decisions about wildfire risk management. Such decisions occur across the fire season and influence pre-positioning of resources in areas of greatest fire potential, recall of personnel from off-duty status, requests for back-up resources from other areas, responses to requests to share resources with other regions during fire events, and decisions about fuel treatment and risk reduction, such as prescribed burning. In this paper, we assess the association between PLs assigned at national and regional (Northwest) scales and a set of predictors including meteorological and climate variables, wildfire activity and the mobilisation and allocation levels of fire suppression resources. To better understand the implicit weighting applied to these factors in setting PLs, we discern the qualitative and quantitative factors associated with PL designations by statistical analysis of the historical record of PLs across a range of conditions. Our analysis constitutes an important step towards efforts to forecast PLs and to support the future projection and anticipation of firefighting resource demand, thereby aiding wildfire risk management, planning and preparedness.

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Forest vegetation change and its impacts on soil water following 47 Years of managed wildfire

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Managed wildfire is an increasingly relevant management option to restore variability in vegetation structure within fire-suppressed montane forests in western North America. Managed wildfire often reduces tree cover and density, potentially leading to increases in soil moisture availability, water storage in soils and groundwater, and streamflow. However, the potential hydrologic impacts of managed wildfire in montane watersheds remain uncertain and are likely context dependent. Here, we characterize the response of vegetation and soil moisture to 47 years (1971–2018) of managed wildfire in Sugarloaf Creek Basin (SCB) in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA, using repeat plot measurements, remote sensing of vegetation, and a combination of continuous in situ and episodic spatially distributed soil moisture measurements. We find that, by comparison to a nearby watershed with higher vegetation productivity and greater fire frequency, the managed wildfire regime at SCB caused relatively little change in dominant vegetation over the 47 year period and relatively little response of soil moisture. Fire occurrence was limited to drier mixed-conifer sites; fire-caused overstory tree mortality patches were generally less than 10 ha, and fires had little effect on removing mid- and lower strata trees. Few dense meadow areas were created by fire, with most forest conversion leading to sparse meadow and shrub areas, which had similar soil moisture profiles to nearby mixed-conifer vegetation. Future fires in SCB could be managed to encourage greater tree mortality adjacent to wetlands to increase soil moisture, although the potential hydrologic benefits of the program in drier basins such as this one may be limited.

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Predicting severe fire potential across the US with the FIRESEV project

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Description: Burn severity is the ecological change resulting from wildland fires. Areas burned with high severity are of concern to land managers and others because postfire vegetation, soil, and other important ecosystem components can be highly altered. Using satellite-derived maps of burn severity for almost 12,000 fires, researchers at the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station developed statistical models to describe the spatial distribution of high-severity fire and produce a predictive map of severe fire potential for the contiguous United States. In this webinar, hear about methods used in this study and how the results and data products can be useful to scientists and land managers.

Presenter: Greg Dillon, Spatial Fire Analyst, U.S. Forest Service

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