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Fire, Fuel and Smoke

Projects

Multi-century fire and forest histories are reconstructed using dendrochronological techniques to assess past variation in fire regimes at various scales of time and space.
Variation in composition, structure,  recruitment history, and genetic heterozygosity are being assessed for Great Basin bristlecone pine stands across the full geographic and ecological range of distribution.
This project explored fire behavior attributes under three levels of tree mortality in a southwestern U.S. forest dominated by ponderosa pine at three stages: pre-outbreak (“green stage”), immediately post-mortality when dead needles remain on trees (“red stage”), and when needles drop to the ground (“gray stage”).
Longleaf pine ecosystems are remarkably rich in plant species and represent the dominant upland forest type in several southeastern military bases. We are coupling a series of field experiments with data mining exercises to help managers monitor the impact of various activities on the understory plant community.
The Prescribed Fire Combustion and Atmospheric Dynamics Research Experiment (RxCADRE) is a collaborative effort in longleaf pine ecosystems to collect and integrate quality-assured fuel, fire, and atmospheric data for development and evaluation of fuel, fire behavior, smoke, and fire effects models.
Fuel mastication is becoming the preferred method of fuel treatment in areas where using prescribed fire is an issue. While much is known about mastication effects soils, fire behavior and vegetative response, little is known about how fuel particle and fuel bed characteristics and properties change over time.
Conventional wisdom in fire management holds that forested stands containing trees that are killed by insects, disease, or fire will remain at high fire hazard for decades after the disturbance. The foliage and fine woody material that falls from the trees killed by the disturbance agents will be highly flammable and create landscapes that have high risk for abnormally severe fire, including crown fire. This assumption, however, is currently being debated for many ecosystems across the western United States.
The ArcBurn project uses controlled laboratory experiments and instrumentation on prescribed burns and wildfires to determine critical damage thresholds for cultural resources including archaeological sites, artifacts, and heritage resources. Data and observations on fire effects and effectiveness of fuels treatments are then used to develop guidelines for best treatment practices and protection of archaeological resources.
Wildfires occur at the intersection of dry weather, available fuel, and ignition sources. Weather is the most variable and largest driver of regional burned area. Temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, and wind speed independently influence wildland fire spread rates and intensities. The alignment of multiple weather extremes, such as the co-occurrence of hot, dry, and windy conditions, leads to the most severe fires.
Global surface temperatures have increased about 0.89°C during the period from 1901 to 2012. Northern Eurasia has experienced the greatest temperature increase to date and is projected to continue experiencing the largest temperature increase globally. High-latitude boreal and temperate ecosystems are particularly sensitive to climate change, and fire – a major disturbance in these ecosystems – responds rapidly to climate change.

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