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

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Science Talk NW

Have you ever struggled to explain why your science matters to a non-scientist? Have you ever been frustrated at the way science is covered in general media and used in policy? Have you wondered just what they’re teaching about science these days? We don’t have all the answers, but we can try to help!

Science Talk NW will unite active scientists, science communicators, journalists, students, and trainees for two exciting days of learning how to talk science to non-scientists or those outside your discipline. It will feature presentations, workshops, expert panels, and a science communication contest specifically for students and postdoctoral fellows.

Our speakers will discuss getting your message out! Ranging from an artist chronicling the life (or lack thereof) in academia to a communication expert, we’re going to help you tackle the whole of science communication.

Landsat time series and lidar as predictors of live and dead basal area across five bark beetle-affected forests

Authored by B.C. Bright; Published 2014

Bark beetle-caused tree mortality affects important forest ecosystem processes. Remote sensing methodologies that quantify live and dead basal area (BA) in bark beetle-affected forests can provide valuable information to forest managers and researchers. We compared the utility of light detection and ranging (lidar) and the Landsat-based detection of trends in disturbance and recovery (LandTrendr) algorithm to predict total, live, dead, and percent dead BA in five bark beetle-affected forests in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon, USA. The BA response variables were predicted from lidar and LandTrendr predictor variables using the random forest (RF) algorithm. RF models explained 28%-61% of the variation in BA responses. Lidar variables were better predictors of total and live BA, whereas LandTrendr variables were better predictors of dead and percent dead BA. RF models predicting percent dead BA were applied to lidar and LandTrendr grids to produce maps, which were then compared to a gridded dataset of tree mortality area derived from aerial detection survey (ADS) data. Spearman correlations of beetle-caused tree mortality metrics between lidar, LandTrendr, and ADS were low to moderate; low correlations may be due to plot sampling characteristics, RF model error, ADS data subjectivity, and confusion caused by the detection of other types of forest disturbance by LandTrendr. Provided these sources of error are not too large, our results show that lidar and LandTrendr can be used to predict and map live and dead BA in bark beetle-affected forests with moderate levels of accuracy.

Wildfires, Erosion, and Deposition across the Western United States

The area burned by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to increase in the future for many watersheds worldwide due to climate change. Burned areas within watersheds increase soil erosion rates, which can increase the downstream accumulation of sediment in rivers and reservoirs. Using an ensemble of climate, fire, and erosion models, we show that post-fire sedimentation is projected to increase for more than ¾ of watersheds by at least 10% and for more than ¼ of watersheds by at least 100 % by the 2041 to 2050 decade in the western USA. In this region, 65% of the water supply originates from forested lands that are prone to wildfire, and many of the watersheds with projected increases in sedimentation are important headwaters of rivers and reservoirs that meet water demands of downstream users.

Joel Sankey is a Research Geologist with the US Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ and is also an adjunct professor of the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University. Previously, he was a USGS Mendenhall Fellow located at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and he holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from the Geosciences Department at Idaho State University. His research expertise spans the disciplines of geomorphology, soil science, ecology, remote sensing, GIS and geospatial science. He conducts interdisciplinary science to detect, monitor, and provide bio-geo-physical explanation for disturbance, resilience, and changes in soil, sediment, and vegetation. His research is primarily focused on resource management and conservation issues throughout the western USA and particularly in arid and semi-arid watersheds and rivers.  

Utah State University Forestry Extension, Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, Southern Rockies Fire Science Network

This webinar is good for 1 CEU from the following organizations:

- Society of American Foresters

- International Society of Arboriculture


How to Enter the webinar

Click on this link

The link will prompt you to download Zoom (if you haven't previously)

Fill out the information portion and answer a few questions to complete your registration for this FREE webinar.

A reminder email will be sent the day of the webinar if you preregister.

Long-term effects on distribution of forest biomass following different harvesting levels in the northern Rocky Mountains

Authored by W. Jang; Published 2015

With increasing public demand for more intensive biomass utilization from forests, the concerns over adverse impacts on productivity by nutrient depletion are increasing. We remeasured the 1974 site of the Forest Residues Utilization Research and Development in northwestern Montana to investigate long-term impacts of intensive biomass utilization on aspects of site productivity. The historical experiment was implemented in a western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.) forest at three biomass utilization levels (high, medium, and low) combined with prescribed post-harvest burning treatments (burned and unburned) under three regeneration cuttings (clearcut, group selection, and shelterwood). The experiment has two replicates and was designed as a split-plot design with an imbalanced manner. Regenerated tree height and diameter at breast height, shrub root collar diameter, and soil properties (C, N, and total organic matter) of the forest floor and mineral soil layers were measured. Regenerated tree, shrub, and total aboveground biomass and total C, N, and organic matter contents of the soil layers were calculated. Results indicated that total organic matter pools at the ecosystem level were similar across regeneration cutting treatments, and there were no differences among the utilization treatments for either aboveground biomass production or soil properties 38 years after harvest. Minor differences observed among treatments seemed to originate from differences in regeneration dynamics and responses to burning treatment. Our results indicate that site productivity in this forest type was unaffected by these biomass utilization levels.

Assessing the impacts of federal forest planning on wildfire risk-mitigation in the Pacific Northwest, USA

Authored by A.A. Ager; Published 2016

We analyzed the impact of amenity and biodiversity protection as mandated in national forest plans on the implementation of hazardous fuel reduction treatments aimed at protecting the wildland urban interface (WUI) and restoring fire resilient forests. We used simulation modeling to delineate areas on national forests that can potentially transmit fires to adjacent WUI. We then intersected these areas with national forest planning maps to determine where mechanical treatments are allowed for restoration and fire protection, versus areas where they are prohibited. We found that a large proportion of the national forest lands (79%) can spawn fires that burn adjacent WUIs. The bulk of the predicted WUI exposure originated from simulated fires ignited outside of conservation and preservation reserves and in dry forests, rather than moist mixed conifer forests. Thus the notion that fuel buildup in reserves on national forests contributes to wildfire risk in the urban interface was only partially supported by the data for the region studied. Most of the national forest lands that contribute wildfires to the WUI are not within the boundaries of community wildfire protection plans, which may undermine the effectiveness of these planning efforts. We used the spatial data themes developed in the study to map conflicts and opportunities for restoration and mitigation of WUI wildfire risk. The analysis disentangles the spatial complexity of managing landscapes for multiple socio-ecological objectives as part of ongoing restoration programs, collaborative planning, and national forest plan revisions on national forests in the US.

Clearning the smoke from wildfire policy: An economic perspective

Authored by D. Lueck; Published 2016

Wildfires are heating up once again in the American West. In 2015, wildfires burned more than 10 million acres in the United States at a cost of $2.1 billion in federal expenditures. As the fires burned, the U.S. Forest Service announced that, for the first time, more than half of its budget would be devoted to wildfire. And the situation is likely to get worse. Within a decade, the agency estimates that it will spend more than two-thirds of its budget battling fires.

In this PERC Policy Series essay, Dean Lueck and Jonathan Yoder use economics to examine wildfire management and the current wildfire policy debate. As leading scholars in the area of wildfire policy, they provide an economic framework for evaluating effective wildfire management and use it to confront current wildfire policy issues. The authors address several important questions: Are wildfires really getting larger and more frequent? How can the efficiency of wildfire policies and management be evaluated? Do wildfire organizations and their incentives matter? And are pro-posed policy reforms likely to improve the effectiveness of wildfire management?

The Wildfire Project

A short film and discussion that combines research perspectives and personal stories about the devastating effects of two megafires in Washington during the summers of 2014 and 2015. The film focuses on how we as a society can shift our cultural views of fire, learn to embrace it as an inevitable and crucial to our landscapes, and finally, learn to co-exist with it more peacefully through learning, adaptation, and proaction.


National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop

Join us in supporting and/or attending the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop—All Hands, All Lands: "Implementation" Rooted in Science being held in RENO, NEVADA IN APRIL 2017, (exact dates to be determined).

For updates and more information, http://www.iawfonline.org/CohesiveStrategyWorkshop/

Fuel and vegetation trends after wildfire in treated versus untreated forests

Authored by D.S. Cram; Published 2015

Increasing size and severity of wildfires have led to increased interest in managing forests for resiliency to future disturbances. Comparing and contrasting treated versus untreated stands through multiple growing seasons postfire provide an opportunity to understand processes driving responses and can guide management decisions regarding resiliency. In treated and untreated forests, we compared fire effects 2‐10 growing seasons following fire on 3 different fires in New Mexico and Arizona. We estimated understory cover, standing crop, fuel loading, and basal area in (1) lop, pile, burn; (2) lop and scatter; (3) harvest and burn; and (4) untreated control stands. Untreated sites had persistent bare soil exposure and less litter cover up to 10 growing seasons after fire. However, there were few differences in standing crop among years and treatments. Falling rampikes contributed to greater coarse woody debris on untreated sites versus treated sites 6‐10 years postfire. However, there were few differences in fine fuel loading among treatments. Proactive management using the full range of silvicultural tools can reduce fire severity and create desired stand conditions, depending on management objectives.

Positive effects of fire on birds may appear only under narrow combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire

Authored by R.L. Hutto; Published 2016

We conducted bird surveys in 10 of the first 11 years following a mixed-severity fire in a dry, low-elevation mixed-conifer forest in western Montana, United States. By defining fire in terms of fire severity and time-since-fire, and then comparing detection rates for species inside 15 combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire, with their rates of detection in unburned (but otherwise similar) forest outside the burn perimeter, we were able to assess more nuanced effects of fire on 50 bird species. A majority of species (60%) was detected significantly more frequently inside than outside the burn. It is likely that the beneficial effects of fire for some species can be detected only under relatively narrow combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire. Because most species responded positively and uniquely to some combination of fire severity and time-since-fire, these results carry important management implications. Specifically, the variety of burned-forest conditions required by fire-dependent bird species cannot be created through the application of relatively uniform low-severity prescribed fires, through land management practices that serve to reduce fire severity or through post-fire salvage logging, which removes the dead trees required by most disturbance-dependent bird species.

Prescribed fire on private lands - Green Springs, OR

Join us to learn about planning and implementing prescribed fire on private lands. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet ranchers and woodland owners from Nebraska, Iowa, and Oregon who are using prescribed fire to restore and improve their lands. Field trips both days include visits to recently burned areas.

For more information, open the flyer or call 541-968-5851

Disturbance, tree mortality, and implications for contemporary regional forest change in the Pacific Northwest

Authored by M.J. Reilly; Published 2016

Tree mortality is an important demographic process and primary driver of forest dynamics, yet there are relatively few plot-based studies that explicitly quantify mortality and compare the relative contribution of endogenous and exogenous disturbances at regional scales. We used repeated observations on 289,390 trees in 3673 1 ha plots on U.S. Forest Service lands in Oregon and Washington to compare distributions of mortality rates among natural disturbances and vegetation zones from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, a period characterized by drought, insect outbreaks, and large wildfires. Endogenous disturbances (e.g. pathogens, insects) were pervasive but operated at relatively low levels of mortality (<2.5%/yr) that rarely exceeded 5%/yr. Exogenous disturbances (e.g. fire, wind, landslides, avalanches) were less common and operated mostly at intermediate levels of mortality (5–25%/yr) indicative of partial-stand-replacement events. Stand-replacing mortality rates (⩾25%/yr) comprised a third of all exogenous disturbance events, occurring almost exclusively in fires. Fires were rare in wet vegetation zones and most rates were <2.5%/yr and associated with endogenous processes. Mortality rates in dry vegetation zones revealed a different set of dynamics including a more variable role of background mortality and greater proportions of mortality associated with fire and insects at partial- and stand-replacing levels. Mortality rates in early and middle stages of stand development were low compared to published rates, but rates >1%/yr in over half of the plots in late and old-growth stages corroborate previous findings of elevated mortality during the same period and indicate the potential for pervasive structural change across all vegetation zones. Partial- and stand-replacing fire were associated with most mortality, but affected a relatively small proportion of dry vegetation zones (3.1–7.1% and 2.1–5.1%, respectively). These disturbances have likely affected regional biodiversity through the creation of early seral habitat, increased within-stand heterogeneity, and restored some aspects of historical fire regimes, but there is a need to better understand corresponding structural and compositional changes. We demonstrate the variability in the drivers, magnitude, and extent of mortality across a biophysically diverse region and highlight the need to incorporate and characterize the effects of mortality at intermediate levels to develop a more comprehensive understanding of regional forest dynamics.

Learning to live with fire

How can we be better prepared for wildfires while living in a fire prone environment? Why do we see more extreme fire behavior when wildfires ignite? Learn about living with and managing wildfires during a panel discussion with wildland fire experts including Project Wildfire Program Director Alison Green and Oregon State University Research Associate Dr. Chris Dunn. Members $3, non-members $7. RSVP: http://www.highdesertmuseum.org/rsvp.

NWFSC Fire Facts: What is? BAER

Authored by N.Fire Scien Consortium; Published 2016

Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) is an assessment intended to protect life, property, water quality, important archeological resources, and impacted ecosystems from further damage. Read more at Fire Facts: What is? BAER

Partnership Opportunities with Indian Forestry: A Tribal Perspective

Conference Event from Intertribal Timber Council and SAF Northwest Office

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) and the Intertribal Timber Council (ITC) invite you to attend our first conference to learn about tribal forestry visions and practices, and explore ways in which you and your organization can create, maintain, and improve partnerships. Together, these two organizations are committed to preserving and sustaining our working forestlands. Forested lands are essential in providing a level of economy, clean water, wildlife and fisheries, recreation, cultural, aesthetic, and so many other values we all cherish. Today more than ever, forest land managers recognize the vital role partnerships play in maintaining our working forest lands.

To learn more, http://www.forestry.org/iesaf/Workshops/TribalForestry2016/

Increasing trends in high severity fire in the southwestern USA from 1984-2013

In the last three decades nearly 5 million hectares have burned in all vegetation types in the Southwest and the largest fires in documented history have occurred in the past two decades. However, trends in severity, or how fires are burning have not been well documented in forest and woodland ecosystems in the Southwest. We quantified trends in high severity fire in seven different forest and woodland ecosystems (i.e. Ecological Response Units [ERU] Fire Regime Types) in the southwestern USA over a 30 year time span.  We showed that fires are getting more frequent, larger, and more severe across all vegetation types. We also showed that area burned and area burned severely are increasing in all forest and woodland ERU Fire Regime Types while percent of high severity fire is increasing in four ERU Fire Regime Types.  Increasing trends may be an indicator of changing fire patterns and thus, large-scale change to the Southwest landscape.

Register for the webinar HERE.

Meeting the JFSP data availability requirement

Meeting the JFSP grant requirement for post-research data accessibility requires some planning. This webinar will review the two paths for satisfying the data requirement, discuss in detail what is needed for publishing research data through the Forest Service Research Data Archive, and provide tips for making those submissions as smooth as possible. Click here to register NOW!

Recovering lost ground: Effects of soil burn intensity on nutrients and ectomycorrhiza communities of ponderosa pine seedlings

Authored by A.D. Cowan; Published 2016

Fuel accumulation and climate shifts are predicted to increase the frequency of high-severity fires in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests of central Oregon. The combustion of fuels containing large downed wood can result in intense soil heating, alteration of soil properties, and mortality of microbes. Previous studies show ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) improve ponderosa seedling establishment after fire but did not compare EMF communities at different levels of soil burn intensity in a field setting. For this study, soil burn intensity effects on nutrients and EMF communities were compared at Pringle Falls Experimental Forest, La Pine, Oregon. Twelve replicate sites were used, each with three treatments: high intensity soil burn from large downed wood combustion (HB), low intensity soil burn (LB), and unburned control (UB). Temperatures lethal to fungi were detected at 0-cm, 5-cm, and 10-cm depths in HB soils and 0-cm depth in LB soils. Ponderosa pine seedlings planted post-burn were harvested after four months for EMF root tip analysis. We found: (a) greater differences in soil properties and nutrients in HB soils compared to LB and UB soils; (b) no differences in EMF richness and diversity among treatments; (c) weak differences in community composition based on relative abundance between UB and either burn treatments; and (d) EMF composition in HB and LB treatments correlated with soil carbon and organic matter contents. These results support the hypothesis that the combustion of large downed wood can alter the soil environment directly beneath it. However, an EMF community similar to LB soils recolonized HB soils within one growing season. Community results from both burn treatments suggest an increase in patchy spatial distribution of EMF. We hypothesize that quick initiation of EMF recolonization is possible depending on the size of high intensity burn patches, proximity of low and unburned soil, and survival of nearby hosts. The importance of incorporating mixed fire effects in fuel management practices will help to provide EMF refugia for ponderosa pine forest regeneration.

Measuring, modeling, and mapping patterns of water availability across landscapes in a time of increasing drought

Flow permanence in stream networks is a critical driver of water quality, in-stream and riparian ecological processes, and downstream water availability. We know remarkably little, however, about how water is distributed across landscapes and how water availability changes in space and time in relation to land cover, geologic, and climatic drivers. This seminar highlights the framework and early results from a new initiative to address this fundamental information gap: WATR (Water Availability and Thermal Regimes). The WATR effort was initiated in the Great Basin of the western United States where limited water availability influences a host of sensitive species ranging from native trout to greater sagegrouse. With establishment of the WATR effort in the Great Basin, we are hoping to motivate additional efforts in other regions of the Nation to better understand water availability at the landscape extent.

Register HERE.

Patterns of conifer regeneration following high severity wildfire in ponderosa pine - dominated forests of the Colorado Front Range

Authored by M.E. Chambers; Published 2016

Many recent wildfires in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Lawson & C. Lawson) - dominated forests of the western United States have burned more severely than historical ones, generating concern about forest resilience. This concern stems from uncertainty about the ability of ponderosa pine and other co-occurring conifers to regenerate in areas where no surviving trees remain. We collected post-fire conifer regeneration and other data within and surrounding five 11-18 year-old Colorado Front Range wildfires to examine whether high severity burn areas (i.e., areas without surviving trees) are regenerating, and how regeneration density is related to abiotic and biotic factors such as distance from surviving forest, elevation, and aspect. We found that some conifer regeneration has occurred in high severity burn areas (mean and median of 118 and 0 stems ha-1, respectively), but at densities that were considerably lower than those in unburned and in low to moderate severity burn areas. Generalized estimating equation analyses revealed that distance from surviving forest was the most important predictor of conifer regeneration in high severity burn areas, with regeneration declining as distance from surviving forest increased; estimates of conifer regeneration were 211 stems ha-1 immediately adjacent to surviving forest but only 10 stems ha-1 200 m from surviving forest. These analyses also revealed that conifer regeneration densities declined as elevation decreased. Regression tree analyses likewise showed that distance from surviving forest and elevation were important predictors of conifer regeneration in high severity burn areas; within 50 m of surviving forest mean (median) regeneration was 150 (0) stems ha-1 at elevations ⩽2490 m and 1120 (1000) stems ha-1 at elevations >2490 m, but at distances ⩾50 m from surviving forest mean (median) regeneration was only 49 (0) stems ha-1, regardless of elevation. Applying regression tree results spatially to the 2002 Hayman Fire, Colorado’s largest and most severe known wildfire, we found that 70% of the area without surviving forest exceeded this 50 m threshold. These patterns of conifer regeneration suggest that Colorado Front Range ponderosa pine - dominated forests may not be resilient to high severity wildfire, particularly where surviving forest is not in close proximity. We recommend that land managers consider planting conifers within the interiors of large high severity burn patches, as well as implementing treatments to reduce the risk of uncharacteristic high severity wildfire in unburned forests, where maintaining a forested condition is desired.

Smoke management photographic guide: A visual aid for communicating impacts

Authored by J.C. Hyde; Published 2016

Communicating emissions impacts to the public can sometimes be difficult because quantitatively conveying smoke concentrations is complicated. Regulators and land managers often refer to particulate-matter concentrations in micrograms per cubic meter, but this may not be intuitive or meaningful to everyone. The primary purpose of this guide is to serve as a tool for communicating potential particulate matter (PM2.5) levels during wildfire events using visual representation. Examples of visibility impairment under various levels of smoke concentration and humidity have been modeled using the WinHaze program.

Prescribed fire on private lands - Ashland, OR

Join us to learn about planning and implementing prescribed fire on private lands. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet ranchers and woodland owners from Nebraska, Iowa, and Oregon who are using prescribed fire to restore and improve their lands. Field trips both days include visits to recently burned areas.

For more information, open the flyer or call 541-968-5851

Facilitating knowledge transfer between researchers and wildfire practitioners about trust: An international case study

Authored by T.K. McGee; Published 2016

The importance of knowledge transfer between researchers, policy makers and practitioners is widely recognized. However, barriers to knowledge transfer can make it difficult for practitioners to apply the results of scientific research. This paper describes a project that addressed barriers to knowledge transfer by involving wildfire management practitioners from three countries in developing a trust planning guide. The guide provides information about trust, factors that influence trust and actions that can be taken to build trust in the context of wildfire management. The researchers synthesized academic research into a draft trust planning guide. Wildfire management practitioners and stakeholders provided feedback about the guide and discussed their own experiences in building trust in a workshop setting. The researchers incorporated valuable feedback from the workshops into the final trust planning guide. Benefits and challenges of this process are discussed, and the authors provide recommendations for researchers and funding agencies to facilitate the uptake of research by end-users.

NWFSC Research Brief #10: Post-fire logging: Examing long-term effects on understory vegetation

Authored by N.Fire Scien Consortium; Published 2016

This study investigated the long-term response of understory vegetation to two post-fire logging treatments (commercial salvage logging with and without additional fuel reduction logging) in northeastern Oregon. Researchers assessed if there were lasting effects on understory plant cover, species diversity, plant community composition, and exotic species cover in experimental treatment units 15 years post-treatment. The study area is located within the area burned by the 1996 Summit Fire, which burned mostly at high severity although it occurred in dry coniferous forests that historically burned at frequent intervals (14-16 years) and at low severity.

NWFSC Fire Facts: What is? CWPP

Authored by N.Fire Scien Consortium; Published 2016

A Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) is a plan developed by a community in an area at-risk from wildfire. Read more at Fire Facts: What is? CWPP