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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United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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FERA Research Update July 2013

This FERA Research Update is intended to provide the fire management and fire science communities with information about current research conducted by the Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team (FERA).

To subscribe, visit or contact Ellen Eberhardt at (541)750-7481,

arrowPreliminary Research Results Shared with Partners at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

This past June, Roger Ottmar, Clint Wright and Ruddy Mell of FERA and Alex Maranghides of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIS) , conducted an 8-hour workshop at Washington State’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  During the workshop, FERA scientists demonstrated the team’s software, and presented fuel consumption and fire behavior results from three jointly-conducted research burns on the base in September 2012. The workshop was followed by a field trip to visit potential research sites for similar research burns that would also include NIST's unmanned aerial vehicles for fire measurements in 2014.


arrowDave Peterson Discusses Climate Change Adaptation Information with Two Groups in One Day

North Carolina State University’s Extension Program joined with the Southern Research Station to offer an overview of “Effects of Climatic Variability and Change on Forest Ecosystems: a Comprehensive Science Synthesis for the U.S. Forest Sector” with coauthors Dave Peterson and Jim Vose. Dave Cleaves, FS Washington Office Climate Change Coordinator, also contributed to the 1-hour presentation on April 14th. It was organized by North Carolina State University.

Later that same day, Dave was a featured guest on the June 20th conference call organized by climate change coordinators of national forests in the Pacific Northwest. He used his 20 minutes to provide an overview of the collaborative North Cascadia Adaptation Project.



arrowSharing Research Results on Fire Models and Their Applications

FERA’s Roger Ottmar will be co-chairing a special session at the International Smoke Symposium, October 21-24, 2013 in Adelphi, Maryland. The session, “State of Fire Behavior Models and Their Application to Ecosystem and Smoke Management,” will feature nine speakers sharing the state-of-the-science in such topic areas as fuels, fire behavior, smoke dispersion, and fire effects. The special session was organized by the interagency Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), the Joint Fire Science Program, and the Core Fire Science Caucus.

Both Roger and Ruddy Mell will be presenting on their work.



arrow“Northwest Scientists Using Drones to Spy on Nature”

“Once used mostly for surveillance and reconnaissance on the battlefield, small, unmanned aircraft are now fetching data for Northwest scientists” reported Sandi Doughton, science reporter for the Seattle Times. FERA’s Ruddy Mell was interviewed, along with many other UA system users in the Pacific Northwest.


arrow“Computer Models for Wildland and WUI Fires”

Ruddy Mell, FERA’s combustion engineer, presented general concepts in fire modeling and the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches. Participants at the live webinar were extremely diverse in their geographic location, employers, and work activities. This presentation was sponsored by the Northwest Fire Research Consortium. 53 minutes



arrowRecipe for Fire Disaster: Heat, Little Rain, 4th of July Holiday”

Gary Chittim, reporter for a Seattle's NBC affiliate station, KIRO-TV, briefly chats with FERA’s Dave Peterson and others in this short video about forest fire risk and fire danger over the long Independence Day holiday weekend. 2 minutes.



arrow“Steady by Jerks: Ecosystem Change in a Greenhouse World”

FERA's Dave Peterson was an invited speaker at the California Botanical Society Centennial Symposium "Botanical Frontiers: Past and Future," held in April at the University of California, Berkeley. His presentation explores the role of fire and other ecological disturbances on the structure and function of forest ecosystems in a warmer climate. 41 minutes.



arrow“How Effective Were Fuel Treatments in the 2011 Wallow Fire?”

FERA’s Dr. Morris Johnson reviewed his research on the effectiveness of fuel treatment in changing fire behavior during the Wallow Fire in 2011. This presentation was sponsored by the Northwest Fire Research Consortium.

arrowTree-species Range Shifts in a Changing Climate—Detecting, Modeling, Assisting

In these times of rapidly changing climate, the science of detecting and modeling shifts in the ranges of tree species is advancing of necessity. Don McKenzie and Louis Iverson briefly review the current state of the science on several fronts and propose long-term demography studies as a complementary approach in the time domain when sufficient data are available.

Dispersal and successful migration into newly suitable habitat are key mechanisms constraining range shifts. We review three approaches to estimating these processes, followed by a discussion of the potential for assisted migration. We conclude that there have been significant recent advances on several fronts but there are still large uncertainties that need further research.

Short Version from the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station

Long Version from the Journal “Landscape Ecology”


arrowModels for Predicting Fuel Consumption in Sagebrush-Dominated Ecosystems

In the journal Rangeland Ecology and Management, FERA's Clint Wright offers several empirical equations for predicting shrub and aboveground biomass consumption, and proportion of area burned, for big sagebrush fires. Model predictors include prefire shrub loading, proportion of area burned, and season of burning for shrub fuels. Proportion of area burned, an indicator of patchiness of the fire, was best predicted from the coverage of the herbaceous vegetation layer, wind speed and slope. For spring fires, woody fuel moisture was an important predictor variable. These models predict proportion of area burned and fuel consumption for both spring and fall fires.



arrowWildfire and Fuel Treatment Effects on Forest Carbon Dynamics in the Western United States

Results of studies on the effects of fuel treatments and wildfires on long-term carbon retention across large landscapes are limited and equivocal. FERA's Joe Restaino and Dave Peterson found that studies at large spatial and temporal scales suggest that there is a low likelihood of high-severity wildfire events interacting with treated forests, negating any expected C benefit from fuels reduction.

The frequency, extent, and severity of wildfire are expected to increase as a result of changing climate, and additional information on C response to management and disturbance scenarios is needed improve the accuracy and usefulness of assessments of fuel treatment and wildfire effects on C dynamics. Results have been published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.



arrowTiming of Fire Relative to Seed Development Controls Availability of Non-Serotinous Aerial Seed Banks

The existence of non-serotinous, non-sprouting species in fire regimes where serotiny confers an adaptive advantage is puzzling. In this research, FERA's Ruddy Mell collaborated with Sean Michaletz (University of of Arizona) and others to gather information from various disciplines and address this puzzle.

White spruce was used to show that the timing of fire relative to seed development can control aerial seed bank availability for non-serotinous species. In physics-based numerical simulations of fire within a stand, approximately 12 percent of cones contained viable seed following a crown fire. Field data in the literature suggest that roughly half of the historical area burned resulted from fires that occurred when closed cones would contain germinable seed. These findings suggest that post-fire recruitment from in situ aerial seed banks can occur for non-serotinous species, and may be an important cause of their existence in fire regimes to which they otherwise seem poorly suited. A discussion version of the paper can be found at the link below. The final version of the paper has been accepted for publication in Biogeosciences. 



arrowQuantifying the Effect of Fuel Reduction Treatments on Fire Behavior in Boreal Forests

FERA's Roger Ottmar and Bob Vihnanek were among the group of collaborators who directly measured fire intensity and energy release in each of four fuel treatments in Alaska’s Interior. The effectiveness of each treatment in changing fire behavior is presented here.



U.S. Forest Service - PNW- FERA
Last Modified: Tuesday, 25 February 2014 at 13:04:08 CST

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