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Mike Burnett and Jon Riley discuss the impacts of wildfire and what is being done to address this threat in episode 10 of the Forest Proud podcast. One being implimented to minimize the impacts of wildfire includes the CPAW program that assists in planning future development with fire management in mind, which the U.S. Forest Service is in partnership with. 

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The good news, at least for Pando, is that it appears that keeping out the deer is enough to solve the problem. But fencing the entirety of the grove is neither practical nor palatable, says Rogers, who partners with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, Colorado, as part of the Western Aspen Alliance, a group committed to improving aspen management and restoring their ecosystems. “Everybody, including myself, doesn’t want fences around this iconic grove. We don’t want to go to nature to see a bunch of fences.”

The alternative, he says, is to do something about the mule deer population. The thinning of the forest has only started to occur in the past century or so. This time frame roughly coincides with when humans entered the area, building cabins, banning hunting, and removing carnivores like wolves that would ordinarily prey on the deer. These human activities, Rogers says, has turned Pando into a safe haven for the deer, artificially inflating their numbers in the area.

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Writing recently in the journal BioScience, Dr. Krawchuk and her colleagues argued that it’s urgent to better understand fire refugia, because they may be seriously threatened in future decades by climate change. Without them, many species may become threatened and the surrounding ecosystems may take longer to recover from wildfires.

Over the years, ecologists have called fire refugia by many names: fire shadows, unburned islands, skips, stringers. But only in the 1990s did the scientists start to pay serious attention to the ecological role that fire refugia play in forests and grasslands.
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… Meanwhile Dr. Kellie Carim, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Montana performed genetic analysis to understand the distribution of pike in the Columbia River Basin and to identify the original source populations that led to the invasion in eastern Washington.

Dr. Carim collaborated with the Colville Confederated Tribes to collect environmental DNA (eDNA) samples in in the Fall of 2017 and the Spring of 2018 from Lake Roosevelt and some of its tributaries (the Kettle, Colville, Sanpoil, and Spokane rivers, and Wilmont and Hawk creeks, which are near the mouth of the Spokane River). Environmental DNA is DNA from an organism that is sloughed off and left behind in the surrounding environment. By collecting water samples, biologists detect an animal simply by looking for its DNA in the water sample.

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The research, recently published in Restoration Ecology, was the result of a four-year trial in both the laboratories of Rocky Mountain Research Station and the fields of Missoula Valley. Biologists coated seeds in a ground ghost pepper powder to see if deer mice react to capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilis that creates their burning sensation, the same way humans do. The subsequent experiments indicated they do. 

When the team placed the spicy seeds alongside regular ones in lab feeding trials, the mice avoided the ghost pepper-dusted snacks, consuming far more of the normal control seeds.

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At the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, Dr. Finney and other researchers are recreating and studying [fire] whirls, as well as the paths that out-of-control blazes cut through millions of acres of forests and grassland in the West. The scientists are racing to develop a deeper understanding of the combined effects of a warmer climate, massive tree die-offs that feed the wildfires, and developments encroaching into the wilderness.

"Nature hides its mysteries pretty well,” Dr. Finney said. “It’s hard to believe, but the physics of how fires behave is largely mysterious. We’re in the days before the Enlightenment in this field. We need better science.” 

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MISSOULA, Mont. — Scientists at the U.S. Forest Service Fire Sciences Lab say models show conditions in western Montana are very similar to last year, but shifted to about two weeks later in the season. That’s concerning because last year brought one of the worst fire seasons the region has ever recorded.

Fire Science Lab officials say they try to add value to the forecasts they receive from the USFS.

One of the things they are studying is the flammability of living plants. They use it to see how different plant species burn. Research ecologist William Matt Jolly says the moisture content of the fuel directly tells them how easily it ignites, how fast it burns and how much energy it releases.

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Greece, Dr Xanthopoulos laments, has been slow to adopt such software. Others are not so dilatory. America’s Forest Service, for instance, uses a model developed by Esri, a geographic-information firm in Redlands, California, to assess fire risk. This model feeds on data on the distribution and types of trees, bushes and other vegetable ground cover, and on construction materials used in an area.

These data are collected mainly by satellites and aircraft, but rangers and crews of firefighters contribute detail from the ground. According to Chris Ferner, a wildland-fire technology specialist at Esri, even entering the diameters of tree trunks and the sites of clogged culverts (which alter patterns of water flow) is grist to the software’s accuracy.

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“Some of the fires are unusual, but the reason it seems more unusual is that there are people around to see it—fire whorls, large vortices, there are plenty of examples of those,” says Mark Finney, a research forester with the US Forest Service. “But some things are changing.” Drought and temperature are worse. Sprawl is worse. “The worst fires haven’t happened yet,” Finney says. “The Sierra Nevada is primed for this kind of thing, and those kinds of fires would be truly unprecedented for those kinds of ecosystems in the past thousands of years.”
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The cost of fighting wildfires has risen in recent decades along with their severity and the damage they have inflicted, and 2018 appears to be no exception.

The U.S. Forest Service, the primary federal agency in charge of fighting wildfires, and other Department of the Interior agencies spent an all-time high last year of more than $2.9 billion combating fires – more than 12 times what was spent on suppression efforts in 1985, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center. The 2017 figure is still more than five times higher than the amount spent in 1985 when adjusted for inflation.

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