After a more than a century of fighting to keep fire out of forests, reintroducing it is now an important management goal. Yet changes over the past century have left prescribed burning with a big job to do. Development, wildfire suppression, rising global temperatures, extended droughts, exotic species invasions, and longer fire seasons add complexity to using this practice.
Managers must consider how often, how intensely, and what time of year to burn; for insights they often look to how and when fires burned historically. However, attempting to mimic historical wildfires that burned in hot, dry conditions is risky. Burning in fall or spring when temperature and humidity are low reduces the risk of prescribed fires becoming uncontrollable, but does it have the intended effects? How do forest ecosystems that historically were adapted to fire respond when fire is reintroduced after so much time without it?
Forest Service researchers Becky Kerns and Michelle Day conducted a long-term experiment in the Malheur National Forest, Oregon, to assess how season and time between prescribed burns affect understory plant communities in ponderosa pine forests. They found that some native plants persisted and recovered from fire but didn’t respond vigorously, while invasive species tended to spread. These findings may help forest managers design more effective prescribed-fire treatments and avoid unintended consequences.
The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) initiated the Fire and Smoke Model Experiment (FASMEE) (https://fasmee.net) by funding JFSP Project 15-S-01-01. This nationwide, multiagency effort identifies and collects critical measurements that will be used to advance fire and smoke science and modeling capabilities, allowing managers to 1) increase the use of managed fire, 2) improve firefighting strategies, 3) enhance smoke forecasts, 4) better assess carbon stores and fire-climate interactions and improve our understanding of other fire effects such as vegetation response. FASMEE also provides unparalleled opportunities to introduce new technology and the next generation of fire researchers in the largest coordinated fire project to date. The core leadership portioned FASMEE into three phases including analysis and planning (Phase 1), data collection (Phase 2), and future improvements (Phase 3). Phase 1 is complete, with the study plan as the main deliverable and a final report submitted and accepted by the JFSP in 2020. The plan includes science questions, data measurements and specifications, and burn recommendations that serve to guide planning. The plan has been published in the scientific literature.
The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) initiated the Fire and Smoke Model Experiment (FASMEE) by funding Project 15-S-01-01 to identify and collect a set of critical measurements that will be used to advance wildland fire science knowledge and fire and smoke modeling capabilities. The project provided core leadership that developed a robust study plan and costing for a field campaign that would gather a novel set of observations, evaluate a selected set of models and use this information to advance operationally used fire and smoke modeling systems. FASMEE, with the support of the JFSP, leveraged several agency resources including the US Forest Service, National Science Foundation (NFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to successfully initiate the western wildfire campaign, the first of three data collection campaigns identified in the FASMEE study plan.
This document presents the study plan for the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE). FASMEE is a large-scale interagency effort to (1) identify the critical measurements necessary to improve operational wildland fire and smoke prediction systems, (2) collect observations through a coordinated field campaign, and (3) use these measures and observations to advance science and modeling capabilities. FASMEE is aimed at operational modeling systems in use today as well as the next generation of modeling systems expected to become operationally useful in the next 5 to 10 years.
Composition of pyrolysis gases for wildland fuels is often determined using ground samples heated in non-oxidising environments. Results are applied to wildland fires where fuels change spatially and temporally, resulting in variable fire behaviour with variable heating. Though historically used, applicability of traditional pyrolysis results to the wildland fire setting is unknown. Pyrolytic and flaming combustion gases measured in wind tunnel fires and prescribed burns were compared using compositional data techniques. CO2 was dominant in both. Other dominant gases included CO, H2 and CH4. Relative amounts of CO, CO2 and CH4 were similar between fire phases (pyrolysis, flaming combustion); relatively more H2 was observed in pyrolysis samples. All gas log-ratios with CO2 in pyrolysis samples were larger than in flaming combustion samples. Presence of live plants significantly affected gas composition. A logistic regression model correctly classified 76% of the wind tunnel samples as pyrolysis or flaming combustion based on gas composition. The model predicted 60% of the field samples originated from pyrolysis. Fire location (wind tunnel, field) and fire phase affected gas composition. The compositional approach enabled analysis and modelling of gas compositions, producing results consistent with the basic characteristics of the data.
For over 35 years, the Starkey project has conducted policy-shaping research on deer and elk.
With its game-proof fence and controlled access, the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range is truly a one-of-a-kind research facility. Combined with automated traffic counters, tractable elk that helped break new ground in elk nutrition, decades of telemetry data, and animal handling facilities and you have a world-class resource and research program referred to as The Starkey Project. A broad spectrum of federal, state, private, Tribal and university partners have collaborated, leading to widespread acceptance and use of results to tackle national issues in resource management. But key to Starkey Project success is the 30-plus year collaboration and co-leadership between the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). How has this partnership, and the Project, been so successful? From the get-go, both agencies worked together to develop the facility, its technologies, and research agenda, while leveraging funding and equipment. Both PNW and ODFW support a full-time Starkey Project Leader, with scant turnover through the years. Jack Ward Thomas, Starkey Project Leader for PNW in the 1980s and early 90s, was instrumental in getting the fencing and supporting technologies established, working closely with Donavin Leckenby, Project leader for ODFW. Project staff have always been co-located to ensure the work remains tightly integrated. This long collaboration has been one of the closest and most successful research partnerships that we know of between federal and state agencies. Research results have been widely adopted for managing forests and rangelands of western North America.