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Geography: Pacific Southwest Region (R5)

Variable streamflow response to forest disturbance in the western United States

Science Spotlights Posted on: June 14, 2022
Forest disturbance is typically expected to lead to increased runoff, and therefore more water available for aquatic ecosystems and people. We examined streamflow and forest change in 159 watersheds in the western U.S. to test this expectation. Although some disturbed watersheds produced more runoff, very dry watersheds not only produced less runoff following disturbance but also were more likely to experience disturbance in the first place.

Informing wildland fire response planning using historical data

Science Spotlights Posted on: June 01, 2022
A severe outbreak of wildfire across the U.S. Pacific Coast during August 2020 led to persistent fire activity through the end of summer, with higher than usual fire activity predicted into the winter in some areas of California. To help inform planning at a regional and national level regarding availability and assignments of firefighting personnel and equipment, we developed visualizations of resource use during recent years. Our visualizations provided an overview of the crew, engine, dozer, aerial resource, and incident management team usage by geographic area and were included in a report for Region 5 produced by Area Command Team 2 titled “Pacific Southwest Region 2020 Wildfire Situation Regional Strategic Plan, October–December 2020.”

The rundown on native western forbs

Science Spotlights Posted on: May 06, 2022
Over the last 20 years, researchers and practitioners have greatly increased our knowledge of native western forbs, their biology, ecology, and use in restoration. Now there is an online book that synthesizes this research and practical experience

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Why fires are climbing higher than ever before due to increased western aridity

Science Spotlights Posted on: April 28, 2022
Fires are burning higher and broader. Increases in burned area and altogether larger fire occurrences have been noted throughout the past half-century within western regions of the United States. The key word in all of this: higher. Recent collaborative research by Rocky Mountain Research Station, McGill University, University of California, and Boise State University focuses on the elevational distribution amongst forest fires in mountainous areas of the western United States—showing unique and unprecedented burned forest rates in areas above 2,500 m (8,200 ft) from 1984 to 2017.​​

Science Supporting the Wildfire Crisis Strategy

Pages Posted on: April 22, 2022
The Woolsey Fire seen from Topanga, California.</body></html>

Examining extreme single-day fire spread events

Science Spotlights Posted on: April 11, 2022
Wildfire activity in recent years is notable not only for an expansion of total area burned but also for large, single-day fire spread events that pose challenges to ecological systems and human communities. In this study, we evaluated the relationships between extreme single-day fire spread events, annual area burned, and fire season climate, while also predicting changes under future warming. 

Predicting post-disturbance recovery in arid ecosystems

Science Spotlights Posted on: April 07, 2022
Habitat suitability indices (HSI) have been used in restoration to identify microsites that are good for replanting native species or predicting ecosystem recovery after disturbance. In arid environments, these microsites are often based on abiotic factors, and ‘high suitability’ sites are in sheltered spots that capture moisture and experience less stress from winds. However, if such indices do not consider the resident species in the site, then they may incorrectly predict passive and active restoration success.

New insights into cross-boundary wildfires

Science Spotlights Posted on: March 25, 2022
Wildfires do not respect ownership or management boundaries, and those that move across them are called “cross-boundary” fires. This study provides evidence that challenges the common narrative that most destructive fires spread from USFS-managed wildlands to communities. Rather, nearly three-quarters of cross-boundary ignitions originated on private lands and were human-caused. Overall area burned in cross-boundary fires has increased over the last three decades.

Forest restoration reduces megafires and benefits spotted owls

Science Spotlights Posted on: March 09, 2022
A major barrier to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration has been concern over potential impacts to sensitive old-forest species, like the spotted owl. This study shows that contrary to common perceptions, forest restoration is expected to provide net benefits to spotted owls through reducing their exposure to stand-replacing wildfire.

Is This Flight Necessary? A New Framework for Fire Aviation Decision Support That Improves Efficiency Through Analytics

Documents and Media Posted on: February 09, 2022
To improve strategic risk management of firefighting aircraft, Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) ecologist Crystal Stonesifer and colleagues have recently developed and published a decision support system called the Aviation Use Summary (AUS). The AUS provides a shared understanding for firefighters, fire managers, and fire leadership through near real-time automated mapping of aircraft actions (such as retardant drops) and a structured, repeatable check-in and planning process. Document Type: Other Documents