USDA Forest Service

Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team


Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory

400 N 34th Street, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98103

(206) 732-7800

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Newsletter Archive | News Flash Archive



King Fire Salvage Logging Variable Retention Study

Salvage harvesting of trees after high severity wildfire is controversial, in part because the short- and long-term effects are not well studied or understood. Much of the current understanding about snag, fuel, and understory dynamics in relation to salvage comes from observational and unreplicated studies and/or is based on short-term observations. A diverse team, including FERA’s Morris Johnson, is evaluating treatments of varying levels of salvage within the King Fire to learn:

  • How long do fire-killed trees remain upright as snags?
  • How does the rate at which snags become fuel vary with tree species, tree size, and other local factors? 
  • Do salvage operations affect overall understory biodiversity and does logging disturbance facilitate invasion by non-native species?
  • Do salvage operations positively or negatively affect rates of natural tree regeneration? 
  • How does the spacing of planted trees affect tree survival, growth and resilience of the stand to future fire? 
  • What are the effects of salvage logging on fuels and future fire behavior?

Morris Johnson is working with Pacific Southwest Research Station Forest Service researchers Eric Knapp, Malcom North, and Martin Ritchie, along with Sarah Bisbing (California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo) and Jens Stevens (University of California at Davis).

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New Opportunity to Indicate Interest in Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE)

The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP), in partnership with the DOD Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, has initiated planning for the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE). This experiment is being designed as a large-scale field campaign to develop novel measurement techniques and provide critical observational data necessary to evaluate and advance operationally used fire and smoke modelling systems and their underlying scientific models.

Because the intended scope and scale of this effort is beyond the capability of JFSP to effectively implement independently, a collaborative multi-agency approach is planned. Additional partnerships are being formed with NOAA, NASA, Forest Service, and EPA, including formation of an inter-agency FASMEE Coordination Committee.

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Website Updates on Hold
I once again beg your patience with the FERA website and the problems you may encounter when looking for newer information. In January 2016, the Pacific Northwest Research Station will unveil an entirely new website, and all efforts are invested into the new content-management implementation. You may expect to find not only a web page for the FERA team, but also simpler ways and searches to find the information you seek.


Alvarado Shares FERA’s Fire and Climate Change Research at Convention in Cuba

Ernesto Alvarado, a FERA cooperator at the University of Washington, attended the 10th International Convention on Environment and Development in Havana, Cuba, this past July. Joining him were Armando González-Cabán, a research economist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station, and Alexandra Zamecnik, USFS International Program Manager for Mexico and Central America.

Travel for this event was sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, International Programs, as part of efforts to initiate collaboration with Cuba. The trip was possible because of reestablishment of diplomatic relation between the two countries.

The Convention was the umbrella to at least 13 different congresses and colloquiums. One of those was the IV Congress on Climate Change where Alvarado and González-Cabán gave a presentation on wildfires and climate change.  The presentation was well received and generated interest in promoting future collaboration with Cuba and other countries of the region.

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Mexican Doctoral Student Visits PWFSL to Study WFDS

Xareni Sanches, a doctoral student in Physics at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico, is visiting the Pacific Wildland Fire Lab this summer. Xareni is working with FERA team members Drs. Ruddy Mell and Ernesto Alvarado. The objectives for her visit to Seattle is to learn about the Wildland Fire Dynamics Simulator (WFDS) and develop a research proposal for her doctoral work based on WFDS, applying the model to simulate fire spread for large wildfires in Mexican ecosystems. Her major professor is Prof. Jose Torres.

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Measurements Relating to Fire Radiative Energy Density and Surface Fuel Consumption—RxCADRE 2011 and 2012

Small-scale experiments have demonstrated that fire radiative energy is linearly related to fuel combusted but such a relationship has not been shown for large operational prescribed fires.

This paper, published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, presents field and remotely-sensed measures of prefire fuel loads, consumption, fire radiative energy density (FRED) and fire radiative power flux density (FRFD) across forested and nonforested plots burned during the 2011 and 2012 RxCADRE prescribed fire experiments.  

Field, airborne lidar and long-wave infrared image datasets, both before and after calibrations and corrections have been applied, will be made publicly available from a permanent archive for further analysis and to facilitate fire modelling. FERA’s Roger Ottmar was one of eight collaborators on this project led by Dr. Andrew Hudak of the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, in Moscow, Idaho.

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Effects of Dormant and Growing Season Burning on Surface Fuels and Potential Fire Behavior in Northern Florida Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) Flatwoods

Jim Cronan, a University of Washington doctoral student, recently authored a paper with FERA’s Clint Wright on the effects of season-of-burn on live fuels and predicted fire behavior. Along with colleague Maria Petrova, he examined the seasonal changes in shrub and herbaceous fuel layers and predicted fire behavior on frequently-burned mesic pine flatwoods in northern Florida. 

They did not detect a difference in the shrub fuel stratum between single dormant and growing season burns in mature pine flatwoods, a result that agrees with past studies in which observed individual growing season burns in pine flatwoods had small or negligible negative effects on the shrub layer relative to dormant season burns.

Changes associated with growing season burning appear to be subtle initially. Managers should monitor live fuels following burns as changes that accumulate after multiple growing season burns may be different from those associated with dormant season burns, potentially producing a fuel complex with different fire behavior characteristics.

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Study Contrasts Tolerance of Smoke Amongst Communities in the Interior West and Southcentral United States

This study focused on one of the main challenges faced by fire managers—smoke from prescribed fires. It was conducted by the University of Idaho and targeted the lack of understanding related to public opinions toward smoke from prescribed fires or the factors that underlie public tolerance of smoke.

Results are consistent with a relatively large body of existing research related to public acceptability of prescribed fire and provide a solid foundation for reinforcing and building upon the high level of trust in fire managers and beliefs about the benefits of prescribed fire.

Public appraisal of threats from potential smoke impacts was also a direct predictor of smoke tolerance and can be used as a tool to tailor specific messages to address public concerns.

We acknowledge funding from the Joint Fire Science Program Project #10-1-03-2.

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Representing Climate, Disturbance, and Vegetation Interactions in Landscape Models

The prospect of rapidly changing climates over the next century calls for methods to predict their effects on myriad, interactive ecosystem processes. FERA’s Don McKenzie joined five colleagues in setting out a strategy to help overcome the challenges in modeling such interactions.

This paper in Ecological Modeling presents a strategy for constructing the next generation of landscape models to ensure that interactions are modeled at appropriate scales of time and space, and that processes representing these interactions are simulated mechanistically when possible  Six key questions help frame this strategy and offer guidance and possible solutions on the structure and content needed for future landscape models to incorporate climate-vegetation-disturbance interactions effectively.

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Effects of Salvage Logging and Pile-and-Burn on Fuel Loading, Potential Fire Behaviour, Fuel Consumption and Emissions

Field measurements and simulation modelling were used by FERA’s Morris Johnson to measure effects of salvage logging, and a combination of salvage logging and pile-and-burn fuel surface fuel treatment (treatment combination), on fuel loadings, fire behaviour, fuel consumption and pollutant emissions.

Salvage logging and the treatment combination significantly reduced fuel loadings, fuelbed depth and smoke emissions.

Collaborators included Jessica E. Halofsky and David L. Peterson. This project was funded by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest research station and region, along with the Oregon BLM State office.

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