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Pacific Southwest Research Station
About Us: Research Accomplishments 2012
Explore the 2012 Report
Fire and Fuels Program
Managing fire and the vegetation conditions that fuel fire is a paramount challenge to land managers throughout most of California, Hawai'i and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. The mission of the Fire and Fuels Program is to provide scientific findings that will improve management actions intended to enhance resiliency and sustainability of wildland ecosystems affected by fire, and reduce the potential for adverse effects resulting from wildland fire, including loss of life and property.
Research focuses on the following areas:
2012 Research Highlights
Science helps guide forest planning
Station scientists led an innovative year-long effort to synthesize and distill recent scientific research which will guide the revision of land and resource management plans for national forests in the Sierra Nevada. Highlights of this approach included analysis and design of treatments that reduce the extent of severe wildfire while avoiding impacts to sensitive species; consider opportunities to promote resilience of local communities; and apply principles of adaptive management to evaluate outcomes. The science team produced an integrated report on strategies to promote long-term socioecological resilience in the Sierra Nevada bioregion in the face of climate change, increases in wildfire severity and extent, demographic changes, and other expected stressors.
Managing wildfire may increase forest restoration
Forests in the Sierra Nevada are vulnerable to large and severe wildfires that have the potential to impact human communities, habitat for sensitive wildlife species and water resources. Increasing the amount of fire on a landscape to reduce the potential damage of future wildfires may seem counterintuitive. However, station scientists have found that using managed wildfire under less-than-extreme fire weather conditions across large portions of Sierra Nevada forests may alleviate the current hazardous fuels/fire deficit problem.
Fire size and severity trends in Northern California show that managed wildfire may reduce severe fire outbreaks
Research indicates that fire size and severity have been increasing over the last several decades. This assessment of large wildfires in Northern California indicates that using managed wildfire under less-than-extreme fire weather conditions forests may help alleviate the current hazardous fuels/fire deficit problem. Analysis of wildfire trends from 1910 - 2008 revealed ways to increase forest resilience and limit severe fire effects, reducing vulnerability to large and severe wildfires by managing wildfires for resource benefits. Findings suggest that under conditions typical of widespread lightning-fire outbreaks, wildfires could be more extensively used to achieve ecological and management objectives in Northern California.
FireMapper technology tracks effectiveness of fire retardant
Aerial assault on wildland fires with air tankers and fire retardant is a critical and expensive element of modern fire suppression. Yet the practical effects of retardant application on fire behavior have not been critically assessed across the range of conditions encountered in active, large wildfires. PSW is using its specialized FireMapper remote-sensing system in a nationwide study quantifying and assessing the response of fires to retardant applied under operational conditions.
Station partners with NOAA to predict fire risk
An in-depth knowledge of the spatial and temporal variability of fire weather variables is needed to predict fire danger. In response to this need, the Forest Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began engaging in collaborative research in weather and climate-related physical fire science. Station scientists will develop a management system that can predict the timing, location, and severity of wildfires. This collaborative research will enhance the understanding of fire risk using climate forecasts, and will provide a tool to improve the development of forest and wildland management strategies.
Visit the Fire and Fuels Program pages on our website.
|Last Modified: May 3, 2013 11:50:00 AM|