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Date: April 17, 2014

Synthesis of wildland fire emissions, carbon, and climate research

FORT COLLINS, Colo., April 17, 2014 – Scientists know that wildland fire emissions play a significant role in the global carbon cycle and that its principal component – carbon dioxide – is a primary driver of climate change. But quantifying the effects of and predicting potential future emissions is a difficult process requiring the integration of complex interactions of climate, fire, and vegetation. Scientific research that describes the current state of knowledge, critical knowledge gaps, and importance of fire emissions for global climate and terrestrial carbon cycling is the focus of nine science syntheses published in a special issue in the Forest Ecology and Management (FORECO) Journal titled, Wildland Fire Emissions, Carbon, and Climate: Science Overview and Knowledge Needs.

The issue reflects the collaborative efforts of a team of seventeen scientists and associates hailing from the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Southwest, Northern and Southern Research Stations, USFS Washington Office, George Mason University, University of Montana, and privately contracted researchers from California, North Carolina and New Zealand.

Following a science overview and summary of knowledge needs, the series of articles begins with consideration of fire and terrestrial carbon cycle processes and concludes with how emissions resulting from those processes affect climate. Between those starting and endpoints are six articles that sequentially focus on fire activity and burned area, fuels, consumption, emission factors, emissions, and atmospheric processes.

The development of the series included planning workshops, regular meetings of all lead authors, significant collaboration among scientists from the five Stations and their associates, and both peer- and blind referee-review. Colin Hardy, RMRS Fire, Fuel, and Smoke science program manager and guest editor of the issue was the project lead for logistics, coordinated authors and content and oversaw review and vetting of the reviews. “Bringing some of the nation’s top fire scientists together from multiple Forest Service Research Stations, universities, and the private sector demonstrates the breadth of knowledge, expertise and integrity in our scientific research, and demonstrates the capacity of Forest Service R&D to address the breadth of subjects presented in this issue,” Hardy said.

The Wildland Fire Emissions, Carbon, and Climate: Science Overview and Knowledge Need special issue is available at

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization - the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12 state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups, and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to You can also follow us on Twitter at


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