Director's Corner

WWETAC: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

There have been a few changes for WWETAC over the last year or so. After Jerry Beatty retired in 2010 Terry Shaw stepped in as Director. Terry retired March, 2011, and Nancy Grulke has been the Center Director since August, 2010. Our current staff includes Alan Ager (wildfire risk assessment), Nicole Vaillant (fuels management tools), John Kim (dynamic vegetation modeler, part time), Paige Fischer (human dimensions of environmental threats), Lisa Balduman (technology information specialist), Terry Shaw (emeritus scientist), as well as visiting scientist Jeff Hicke from the University of Idaho (bark beetle outbreaks, remote detection of tree mortality). Helen Maffei (from R6 FHP) has recently agreed to serve as the Assistant Director for the center for 4 months. Marc Kramer (R6 climate change scientist, part time) has also joined our team to promote climate change communication within and among the regions. The following paragraphs describe our progress this year in each of our four focus areas:.

Landscape Assessment

Our work this year in landscape assessment included an annotated bibliography of threats to western riparian ecosystems, an analysis of existing incentive programs for encouraging landowners to engage in restoration and protection of ecosystem services, a landscape vulnerability assessment and its management application that identified ecosystem values to be most likely to be impacted by disturbance, updated landscape assessment tool for detection of change to owl habitat, a new assessment tool to help select an appropriate seed zone source within the context of climate change, and a new tool that allows managers to choose, pattern, and compare fuel management treatments test differences in simulated wildfire risk.

Environmental Change

Two sociological studies were completed that identified four types of private land owners based on their land use and motivation that will require different incentives to encourage carbon sequestration. Two key syntheses were produced: one on forest ecosystems and climate change, and the other reviewing ecological models responsive to climate change. A dynamic vegetation model (MC1) specifically parameterized for R3 and R6 was completed that provides estimates for regional carbon pools and fluxes. It features down-scaled climate scenarios that describes which areas have good agreement among different climate scenarios. Uncertainty in climate projections indicate areas of risk: a range of adaptive and mitigative approaches will be needed to accommodate the uncertainty. In an assessment of the balance of fuel treatment emissions vs. wildfire emissions, carbon loss due to fuel reduction treatments exceeded the expected benefit associated with lowered burn probabilities and reduced fire severity on the treated landscape.

Invasives

An empirical model was developed to predict the risk for bark beetle outbreaks in Washington and Oregon. An increase in outbreaks was correlated to higher August mean temperature, higher minimum winter temperatures, and the occurrence of soil moisture deficits in the prior 0 to 4 years. The effect of bark beetle outbreaks in lodgepole forests on carbon and nitrogen pool dynamics was quantified in a number of studies. Bark beetle outbreaks alter forest carbon cycling in a different way than losses due to harvesting and wildfire. A synthesis was published on the climate change impacts on forest disease. We reported studies on morphological symptom development with oak drought stress in goldspotted oak borer, lack of Armillaria control 35 years after stump treatment, an empirical model of Swiss needle cast, and reintroduction of a rust pathogen to Hawaii.

Wildfire risk and Fuels Management

We updated an existing tool for fuels management (ArcFuels), as well as developed a new assessment tool, Landscape Treatment Design (LTD). The assessment tools have been described, reviewed, and published. A large review of quantitative wildfire management risk assessments was completed. In simulations of wildfire behavior, fuels treatments 3 to 6 miles outside of the WUI were most effective in reducing mortality in large fire resilient trees. Similarly, treating stands near structures in the WUI lower WUI wildfire risk, but resulted in an increase mortality of large trees in the adjoining forest. There were several interesting results from human behavior pertaining to wildfire risk: Private landowners grouped by motivation require different incentives to reduce wildfire risk. Social values and societal norms work against cooperation among private landowners in reducing wildfire contagion. Private land ownership decreased efficiency of fuels management and increases wildfire risk on federal lands (modeled).

Nancy Grulke, Director, Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center
Phone: (541) 416-6583
E-mail: ngrulke[at]fs.fed.us