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The Northwest Fire Science Consortium works to accelerate the awareness, understanding, and adoption of wildland fire science. We connect managers, practitioners, scientists, and local communities and collaboratives working on fire issues on forest and range lands in Washington and Oregon.

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JFSP Regions

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NWFSC is one of
fifteen regional exchanges
sponsored by the Joint Fire Science Program.

Hot Topics


Representing climate, disturbance, and vegetation interactions in landscape models

Authored by R.E. Keane; Published 2015

The prospect of rapidly changing climates over the next century calls for methods to predict their effects on myriad, interactive ecosystem processes. Spatially explicit models that simulate ecosystem dynamics at fine (plant, stand) to coarse (regional, global) scales are indispensable tools for meeting this challenge under a variety of possible futures. A special class of these models, called landscape models (LMs), simulates dynamics at intermediate scales where many critical ecosystem processes interact. The complicated dependencies among climate, disturbance, and vegetation present a difficult challenge for LMs, however, because their simulation must reconcile processes and their interactions that occur at different spatial and temporal scales. In the absence of these interactions, key thresholds in ecosystem responses to changes in climate may go undetected or misrepresented. In this paper, we present a general strategy for constructing the next generation of LMs that ensures that interactions are modeled at appropriate scales of time and space, and that, when possible, processes representing these interactions are simulated mechanistically. We identify six key questions to frame this strategy and then provide guidance and possible solutions on the structure and content needed in future LMs to ensure that climate-vegetation-disturbance interactions are incorporated effectively.


Connecting Research to Practice: The Evolving World of Extension and Knowledge Exchange

Conference Event from IUFRO

The FINAL CALL for Abstracts closes 9 April 2015.
Abstracts should be no more than 200 words, and should include the title, all authors and affiliations, and indicate whether they are to be considered for either an oral or poster presentation, or both. Please include the name and email for the primary contact and title your email: "LASTNAME"_IUFRO_EKE

Oral presentation slots are limited to 30.  Those not accepted for an oral presentation will we accepted for a poster presentation.

Please email your abstract to janean.creighton@oregonstate.edu

For more information, click HERE


Climate change and vulnerability of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in a fire-prone landscape

Authored by J.A. Falke; Published 2015

Linked atmospheric and wildfire changes will complicate future management of native coldwater fishes in fire-prone
landscapes, and new approaches to management that incorporate uncertainty are needed to address this challenge. We used a
Bayesian network (BN) approach to evaluate population vulnerability of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the Wenatchee River
basin, Washington, USA, under current and future climate and fire scenarios. The BN was based on modeled estimates of
wildfire, water temperature, and physical habitat prior to, and following, simulated fires throughout the basin. We found that
bull trout population vulnerability depended on the extent to which climate effects can be at least partially offset by managing
factors such as habitat connectivity and fire size. Moreover, our analysis showed that local management can significantly reduce
the vulnerability of bull trout to climate change given appropriate management actions. Tools such as our BN that explicitly
integrate the linked nature of climate and wildfire, and incorporate uncertainty in both input data and vulnerability estimates,
will be vital in effective future management to conserve native coldwater fishes.


Post-fire seeding with ryegrass: implications for understory plant communities and overall effectiveness

Authored by M.A. McMaster; Published 2015

Seeding following high-severity wildfires is motivated by the goals of increasing vegetative cover and decreasing bare soil in order to minimise soil erosion and exotic plant invasions. We compared the ground cover and vegetation response of seeded versus non-seeded areas located in the Warm Fire in northern Arizona, where post-fire seeding treatments with Italian ryegrass (Lolium perenne spp. multiflorum (L.)) were conducted in 4000 ha of high-severity burned areas. Over the course of the study, we observed no significant difference between seeded and non-seeded plots in percentage of bare soil, total vegetative cover or exotic plant cover. However, there were significant differences in plant community composition as revealed by PERMANOVA and Indicator Species Analysis. Two years post-fire there were significantly fewer ponderosa pine seedlings, and the cover of annual and biennial forbs was significantly lower in plots that were seeded with Italian ryegrass. In the third year, the cover of native bunch grasses was significantly lower in seeded plots. The differences we observed may be due to differences in pre-existing vegetation composition because of the geographic separation of the plots across the landscape. Our results illustrate the ineffectiveness of post-fire seeding in achieving the goals of increasing vegetative cover and decreasing the invasion of non-native plants, and we suggest that alternative post-fire remediation should be considered in the future.


6th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress

Conference Event from Association for Fire Ecology

The Association for Fire Ecology (AFE) is pleased to announce the 6th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress to be held in San Antonio, Texas, USA.  Since 2000, AFE has hosted a Fire Congress every three years. These events are the largest, most comprehensive meetings on the research and management of wildland fire that are held anywhere in the world.  They provide unparalleled exposure to the complexity, breadth, and depth of the field of wildland fire.  Providing a respect­ful, inclusive forum for a diverse range of topics and opinions is one of the founding principles that has been part of the success of the Fire Congress series.  We hope you will join us to share with, learn from, and be inspired by fellow attendees who will gather from across the globe.

Call for special sessions & more http://ow.ly/KgH1t


5th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference

A highly educational/engaging and entertaining week featuring selected keynote addresses, numerous plenary, concurrent, and poster presentations, panel discussions, vendor exhibits/displays, and other special sessions (e.g. field trips, staff ride).  Selected presentations will be shared virtually at both conferences.  

 

Themes:


Particulate and trace gas emissions from prescribed burns in southeastern U.S. fuel types: Summary of a 5-year project

Authored by D.R. Weise; Published 2015

Management of smoke from prescribed fires requires knowledge of fuel quantity and the amount and composition of the smoke produced by the fire to minimize adverse impacts on human health. A five-year study produced new emissions information for more than 100 trace gases and particulate matter in smoke for fuel types found in the southern United States of America using state-of-the-art instrumentation in both laboratory and field experiments. Emission factors for flaming, smoldering, and residual smoldering were developed. Agreement between laboratory and field-derived emission factors was generally good in most cases. Reference spectra of over 50 wildland fire gas-phase smoke components were added to a publicly-available database to support identification via infrared spectroscopy. Fuel loading for the field experiments was similar to previously measured fuels. This article summarizes the results of a five-year study to better understand the composition of smoke during all phases of burning for such forests.


Community Experiences with Wildfires: Actions, Effectiveness, Impacts, and Trends

Authored by A. Ellison; Published 2015

Wildfire has become a growing threat for communities across the American West and a complex concern for agencies tasked with community protection. This task has grown more difficult due to the increasing inci-dence of large fires and the continued expansion of the wildland-urban interface (WUI), the area where human habitations and wildland fuels abut or in-termix. These trends have motivated both federal policies and community-level responses to protect communities, lives, and infrastructure....


The effects of burn entry and burn severity on ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests in Grand Canyon National Park

Authored by A.M. Higgins; Published 2015

Over a century of fire exclusion in frequent-fire ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests has resulted in increased tree densities, heavy surface fuel accumulations and an increase in late successional, fire-intolerant trees. Grand Canyon National Park uses prescribed fires and wildfires to reduce fire hazard and restore ecosystem processes. Research is needed to determine post-fire vegetation response thus enabling future forest succession predictions. Our study focussed on the effects of burn entry and burn severity on species composition and regeneration in two forest types: ponderosa pine with white fir encroachment and dry mixed conifer. We found no difference in tree composition and structure in a single, low-severity burn compared with unburned areas in the white fir encroachment forest type. We found no white fir seedlings or saplings in a second-entry, low-severity burn in the white fir encroachment forest type. Second-entry burns were effective in reducing white fir densities in the white fir encroachment forest type. There was significant aspen regeneration following high-severity fire in the dry mixed conifer forest type. This research suggests that repeated entries and an increase in burn severity may be necessary for prescribed fire or wildfire to be effective in meeting management objectives.


Colorado Wildland Fire Conference 2015

This year's conference is designed to provide the framework for becoming a Fire Adapted Community.  Anyone wishing to learn more about how they can reduce their community's vulnerability to wildfire is welcome to attend. 

The conference will provide a variety of educational tracks tailored to real-estate agents, developers, professional planners, insurance industry representatives, community leaders, contractors as well as firefighters and emergency service professionals!

 

Call for Presentations!

We are now accepting presentation proposals for the Colorado Wildland Fire Conference, which will occur September 24 – 26, 2015 at the Viceroy Snowmass in Snowmass Village, CO. This conference is a great opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise about creating Fire Adapted Communities and efforts to address wildfire risk. Please fill out the online Google form LINK

Presentation proposals are due Friday, May 1, 2015 by 11:59 p.m.


NWFSC Activity Report - Fire Without Borders: Observations, Experiences, and Lessons Learned from the 36-Pit Fire

Authored by J. Creighton; Published 2015

The 36-Pit fire near Estacada, OR broke out on September 13, 2014 and spread
quickly, burning a total of 5,524 acres. The fire started by a target shooting
accident in the 36 Pit quarry. Conditions were very hot and dry when
the fire broke out, with temperatures ranging from the upper 80s to the mid-
90s, and the relative humidity around 34%. In addition, there were 30 mph
winds blowing from the east through the Clackamas River canyon...


Restoring fire-prone Inland Pacific landscapes: seven core principles

Authored by P.F. Hessburg; Published 2015

More than a century of forest and fire management of Inland Pacific landscapes has transformed their successional and disturbance dynamics. Regional connectivity of many terrestrial and aquatic habitats is fragmented, flows of some ecological and physical processes have been altered in space and time, and the frequency, size and intensity of many disturbances that configure these habitats have been altered. Current efforts to address these impacts yield a small footprint in comparison to wildfires and insect outbreaks. Moreover, many current projects emphasize thinning and fuels reduction within individual forest stands, while overlooking large-scale habitat connectivity and disturbance flow issues.


Post-fire response of riparian vegetation in a heavily browsed environment

Authored by K.M. Kaczynski; Published 2015

Severe wildfires infrequently occur in large heterogeneous riparian valleys. Riparian areas may affect fire behavior and the pattern of burning due to saturated soils and patchy fuels that may have high moisture content in live and dead stems. We examined the effects of a severe fire on the dominant riparian vegetation: thin-leaf alder, river birch and willow, in a broad riparian valley in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, USA. We mapped the canopy stem mortality and basal resprouting of 4507 first year post fire and 643 second year post fire individuals that had been the dominant woody canopy. To examine the effect of herbivory on resprouting willow stems, we established a paired experiment with 22 willows exclosed in cages to prevent browsing and 22 uncaged control plants. Aerial seed rain sticky traps were established on transects throughout the study area and pre-fire seed rain density was compared with post-fire seed rain densities.

Fire effects on willow were severe, with 91% of individuals having complete canopy loss. Fifty-one percent of thin-leaf alder individuals and 71% of river birch individuals also had complete canopy loss. Seventy-four percent of river birch, 45% of willow and 35% of thin-leaf alder resprouted from the base in the first summer post fire. In the second year post fire, 84% of river birch, 62% of thin-leaf alder and 55% of willow had resprouted. Willows inside exclosures had greater biomass at the end of the growing season compared with willows outside exclosures. Summer browsing resulted in significantly lower willow biomass compared with exclosed plants and the additive effect of summer and winter browsing resulted in control plants having 64% reduction in biomass. Post-fire aerial seed rain was 90% lower than pre-fire densities.

Fire dramatically altered the riparian vegetation. Willow seed rain was nearly eliminated because most stems were killed by fire. Resprouting woody riparian vegetation was prevalent however, ungulate browsing of the resprouting willow stems could limit the regrowth of a tall willow riparian overstory.


Climate Change and Fire in the Southwest

Authored by L.L.Yocom Kent; Published 2015
Global climate change will lead to shis in climate
patterns and re regimes in the Southwest over the
coming decades. e intent of this working paper is
to summarize the current state of scientic knowledge
about climate change predictions in the Southwest as
well as the pathways by which re might be aected.
While the paper is focused on the Southwest, in
particular Arizona and New Mexico, some of the
material cited covers a broader area.


Topography, fuels, and fire exclusion drive fire severity of the Rim Fire in an old-growth mixed-conifer forest, Yosemite National Park, USA

Authored by L. Harris; Published 2015

The number of large, high-severity fires has increased in the western United States over the past 30 years due to climate change and increasing tree density from fire suppression. Fuel quantity, topography, and weather during a burn control fire severity, and the relative contributions of these controls in mixed-severity fires in mountainous terrain are poorly understood. In 2013, the Rim Fire burned a previously studied 2125 ha area of mixed-conifer forest in Yosemite National Park. Data from 84 plots sampled in 2002 revealed increases in tree density, basal area, and fuel buildup since 1899 due to fire exclusion. A dendroecological fire history and reconstruction of forest structure in 1899 showed that this area historically experienced frequent, low-severity fire. In contrast with this region’s historical fire regime, burn severity from Landsat imagery showed that this area burned at mixed-severity in the Rim Fire, with 13% of plots classified as unchanged, 31% low severity, 32% moderate severity, and 24% high severity. A random forest model was used to identify the controls of fire severity in this portion of the Rim Fire, using daily area burned, daily fire weather, and fuels and vegetation data for the surface and canopy. Topography, tree species composition, and cover of forbs and shrubs best explained the fire severity. As an example of a re-entry burn, this study demonstrates how fire exclusion alters fire–vegetation interactions, leading to uncharacteristically severe burns and potentially new fire-vegetation dynamics.


The climate space of fire regimes in north-western North America

Authored by E. Whitman; Published 2015

Aim

Studies of fire activity along environmental gradients have been undertaken, but the results of such studies have yet to be integrated with fire-regime analysis. We characterize fire-regime components along climate gradients and a gradient of human influence.

Location

We focus on a climatically diverse region of north-western North America extending from northern British Columbia, Canada, to northern Utah and Colorado, USA.

Methods

We used a multivariate framework to collapse 12 climatic variables into two major climate gradients and binned them into 73 discrete climate domains. We examined variation in fire-regime components (frequency, size, severity, seasonality and cause) across climate domains. Fire-regime attributes were compiled from existing databases and Landsat imagery for 1897 large fires. Relationships among the fire-regime components, climate gradients and human influence were examined through bivariate regressions. The unique contribution of human influence was also assessed.

Results

A primary climate gradient of temperature and summer precipitation and a secondary gradient of continentality and winter precipitation in the study area were identified. Fire occupied a distinct central region of such climate space, within which fire-regime components varied considerably. We identified significant interrelations between fire-regime components of fire size, frequency, burn severity and cause. The influence of humans was apparent in patterns of burn severity and ignition cause.

Main conclusions

Wildfire activity is highest where thermal and moisture gradients converge to promote fuel production, flammability and ignitions. Having linked fire-regime components to large-scale climate gradients, we show that fire regimes – like the climate that controls them – are a part of a continuum, expanding on models of varying constraints on fire activity. The observed relationships between fire-regime components, together with the distinct role of climatic and human influences, generate variation in biotic communities. Thus, future changes to climate may lead to ecological changes through altered fire regimes.


2014 Quadrennial Fire Review Final Report

Authored by B.Allen Hamilton; Published 2015

The Quadrennial Fire Review (QFR) is a strategic assessment
process conducted every four years to evaluate current
wildland fire management community strategies and
capabilities against best estimates of the future environment.
This report is the third iteration of the QFR, which began
in 2005. It is not a formal policy or decision document,
but rather a strategic evaluation of the long-range direction
of wildland fire management. It looks far into the future to
explore potential risks, challenges, and opportunities that
may affect our ability to meet our mission. Moreover, it will
inform our strategic planning, investments, operational
capabilities, and positioning.

The objective of the QFR is to create...


Dormant season grazing may decrease wildfire probability by increasing fuel moisture and reducing fuel amount and continuity

Authored by K.W. Davies; Published 2015

Mega-fires and unprecedented expenditures on fire suppression over the past decade have resulted in a renewed focus on presuppression management. Dormant season grazing may be a treatment to reduce fuels in rangeland, but its effects have not been evaluated. In the present study, we evaluated the effect of dormant season grazing (winter grazing in this ecosystem) by cattle on fuel characteristics in sagebrush (Artemisia L.) communities at five sites in south-eastern Oregon. Winter grazing reduced herbaceous fuel cover, continuity, height and biomass without increasing exotic annual grass biomass or reducing bunchgrass basal area or production. Fuel moisture in winter-grazed areas was high enough that burning was unlikely until late August; in contrast, fuels in ungrazed areas were dry enough to burn in late June. Fuel biomass on perennial bunchgrasses was decreased by 60% with winter grazing, which may reduce the potential for fire-induced mortality. The cumulative effect of winter grazing from altering multiple fuel characteristics may reduce the likelihood of fire and the potential severity in sagebrush communities with an understorey dominated by herbaceous perennials. Dormant season grazing has the potential to reduce wildfire suppression expenditures in many rangelands where herbaceous fuels are an issue; however, increasing woody vegetation and extreme fire weather may limit its influence.


Negative consequences of positive feedbacks in US wildfire management

Authored by D.E. Calkin; Published 2015

Over the last two decades wildfire activity, damage, and management cost within the US have increased substantially. These increases have been associated with a number of factors including climate change and fuel accumulation due to a century of active fire suppression. The increased fire activity has occurred during a time of significant ex-urban development of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) along with increased demand on water resources originating on forested landscapes. These increased demands have put substantial pressure on federal agencies charged with wildfire management to continue and expand the century old policy of aggressive wildfire suppression. However, aggressive wildfire suppression is one of the major factors that drive the increased extent, intensity, and damage associated with the small number of large wildfires that are unable to be suppressed. In this paper we discuss the positive feedback loops that lead to demands for increasing suppression response while simultaneously increasing wildfire risk in the future. Despite a wealth of scientific research that demonstrates the limitations of the current management paradigm pressure to maintain the existing system are well entrenched and driven by the existing social systems that have evolved under our current management practice. Interestingly, US federal wildland fire policy provides considerable discretion for managers to pursue a range of management objectives; however, societal expectations and existing management incentive structures result in policy implementation that is straining the resilience of fire adapted ecosystems and the communities that reside in and adjacent to them.


An Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy

Authored by T.Rangeland Force; Published 2015

An Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy (the Strategy) is intended to improve the efficiency and efficacy of actions to address rangeland fire, to better prevent and suppress rangeland fire, and improve efforts to restore fire-impacted landscapes. These activities involve targeted investments to enhance efforts to manage rangeland fire in specific portions of the Great Basin region, consistent with efforts of tribal, state, and other lands, and in keeping with the trust responsibilities to Indian tribes and other statutory obligations.