Role of Fire and Fuels in Ecological Restoration

Science Center Objects

Fuel loads are important drivers of fire behavior, and fire is an important natural process that can also be used as a tool for ecological restoration purposes. Land managers and fire experts attempt to track and manipulate fuel loads in order to assess fire risk, control fire behavior, and restore ecosystems. Thus, understanding the relationships between fire, vegetation dynamics, and fuel loads is critical to the successful management and restoration of many ecosystems.

In recently completed research in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, we have shown how attempts to reduce fuel loads using salvage logging after a major disturbance event in a northern forest landscape can lead to variable influences on future fire severity and carbon pools. We are also engaged in a new project with the Bureau of Land Management to look at the role of fire, non-native annual species, and restoration treatments in influencing fuel loads in sagebrush communities in the Great Basin. This project will use a combination of experimental fuels reduction and restoration treatments, landscape-scale sampling fuel loads, and remotely sensed imagery to develop spatially explicit models of dynamic fuel loads across successional and invasion gradients.