The mission of the Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center is to generate and integrate knowledge and information to provide credible prediction, early detection, and quantitative assessment of environmental threats in the western United States
The Western Wildlands Environmental Threats Assessment Center was established in 2005 with support of the three Forest Service Deputy areas - Research, State & Private Forestry, and the National Forest System. We gather, generate, synthesize, and integrate scientific information to provide early detection, credible prediction, and quantitative assessment of environmental threats to natural resources in the western United States. We have a sister center in Asheville, North Carolina, the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center.
WWETAC work in Wildfire Risk and Fuels Management topic area is focused on application tools to aid fuels management such as ArcFuels and Landscape Treatment Designer, as well as testing the effectiveness of fuels management and wildfire risk assessments. WWETAC scientists are key contributors to an NSF-funded coupled human – natural ecosystems project to link wildfire risk assessments with sociological valuation of potential loss (Forests – People – Fire). Sociological studies of human capacity (individual and communities) to prepare for and respond to wildfire risk were conducted and used to define policy target groups that will help messaging to the public. Other studies were funded to take advantage of wildfire that burned through fuels treatments, where the immediacy of the wildfire permitted reconstruction of wildfire severity and its impacts relative to pre-treatment.
Landscape-level Integrated Assessments include products that address the effect of environmental threats at a spatial scale greater than several Forests to CONUS+AK. Approaches to assessments include both quantitative (e.g., MC2, a dynamic vegetation model) and qualitative models (Bayesian risk models), remote sensing tools to assess extent and source of disturbances (MODIS satellite-based tools such as ForWarn and spin offs [ForRAD, PHENO_MAP] as well as fixed-wing aerial imaging), and combined GIS layers and value-based interpretations (socio-economic vulnerability assessments; TRM).
The dynamic vegetation model, MC2, is featured in the Environmental Change topic area. It is an analog (monthly time steps to 2100+), process-based, biogeographic model that predicts current potential and future vegetation, carbon (biomass) pools and dynamics, and water balance. It is calibrated for the western US but is capable of projecting globally at the 4 km spatial scale. At the project scale, climate data is downscaled to provide a mapping resolution of 800 m. Other projects include a mechanistic study of the role of drought stress in pine susceptibility to bark beetle and its multi-spectral detection, the differential sensitivity of weeds and crop species to concurrent ozone and drought stress, and the concurrent effects of ozone, elevated CO2, and drought stress on carbon and water balance of western conifers and oaks.
The Invasives focus area is supported by quantitative (Mountain Pine Beetle model of physiological and population dynamics response to environmental drivers), statistical (prediction of tree mortality based on environmental and ADS data), and qualitative models (Bayesian risk models of competitive interactions of an aggressive graminoid invasive vs. an endangered grass), a meta-analyses of growth form-based attributes of terrestrial plant invasives and their treatment, and several spatial scales of remote sensing tools to detect and attribute the source of tree health degradation and mortality.