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Fire ecology

Science Spotlights

View of a wildfire east side of Reef Rock on Mica Mountain in the Saguaro Wilderness.
As managed wildfires become the primary tool for restoring forest in the southwestern U.S., much can be learned from the managers and the wilderness landscapes where this has been the norm since the early 1970s. This study summarizes the effects of fire managment practices on key resources, documents common challenges in implementing these practices, and provide lessons for how to address them.
High severity burned patch from the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.
This research evaluates the use of citizen science in a region with increased stress from ongoing drought and wildfires. Researchers show how it allows for inexpensive and statistically rigorous monitoring, and fosters greater local involvement in science and conservation. This information will be used to determine optimal protocols for a long-term monitoring plan. Inexpensive and statistically rigorous long-term monitoring fosters local...
A fire-adapted ecosystem becomes densely populated and overcrowded in the absence of periodic fire. Photo by: Andrew Larson, University of Montana
The natural role of fire has been disrupted in many regions of the western United States due to the influence of human activities, which have the potential to both exclude or promote fire, resulting in a “fire deficit” or “fire surplus”, respectively. Consequently, land managers need to better understand current departures from natural levels of fire activity, especially given the desire to maintain and restore resilient landscapes. 
A clump of snags in ponderosa pine forest, northern Arizona.
Since 1997, RMRS scientists have monitored populations of snags (standing dead trees) and downed logs in northern Arizona mixed-conifer and ponderosa pine forests, as well as patterns of climate-mediated tree mortality influencing inputs to snag and log populations.
View of active fire burning surface fuels in a prescribed burn block at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on February 6, 2011. The overstory is dominated by fire-dependent longleaf pine (photo credit: Andrew T. Hudak).
Build-up of woody and herbaceous fuels increases the risk of hazardous wildfires. Using airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scientists are examining fuel build up between wildfires to examine the relationship between surface fuels and fire energy. By integrating the repeated measures of heat flux imaged over the whole duration of a fire, the total energy released was mapped across an entire burn area. Airborne remote sensing provides...
Reseracher holds Greater Sage-Grouse while radio-tagging it
USDA Forest Service (FS) has been a leader for several decades in developing science and applications to support conservation and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems and sage-grouse populations. This spotlight describes an assessment that explains how and why understanding and supporting FS science is crucial for future management of sagebrush ecosystems.
Soil amendment treatments (wood chips, biochar, and biosolids) alone or in combinations applied to an abandoned mine site near Sumpter, OR.
Drought can have severe impacts on rangeland ecosystems in North America. There is a critical need to understand how drought affects rangelands because drought severity and drought-associated disturbances are expected to increase with climatic change. Results from this study will be used to improve predictive forecasts of Great Plains wildfires, which are prone to uncertainies related to current climate projections and a paucity of information...
Cover of Exotic Brome-Grasses in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems of the Western US – Causes, Consequences, and Management Implications
Invasive annual brome grasses are resulting in altered fire regimes and conversion of native arid and semi-arid ecosystems in the western United States to annual grass dominance. The problem is particularly acute in sagebrush shrublands where cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has resulted in annual grass fire cycles that are placing numerous native species such as greater sage-grouse at risk and threating ecosystem services such as livestock forage,...
Proper management of naturally forested landscapes requires an understanding of the temporal and spatial patterns in which key disturbance processes are manifest and their effects on species composition and structure. Linked fire and forest histories constructed from tree-ring evidence provide valuable information about drivers of fire occurrence and about the variability and interactions of fire regimes and vegetation on heterogeneous...
Fig. 4. Imputations of trees per hectare (a), basal area (b) and dominant tree species (c) from airborne lidar across Eglin AFB, and Plot ID (d) imputed as an ancillary variable (i.e., having no weight in the model). This model used for mapping was based
Forest, fuel, and fire management strategies and decisions applied at the scale of forest stands influence not just the tree overstory but also understory plant composition and structure. Understory plants and forest floor materials constitute the surface fuels burned in prescribed fires. Researchers associated LiDAR data from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida with field plot data and fire management records.

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