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Assessing the effects of fire disturbances on ecosystems: A scientific agenda for research and management

January 1, 1999

A team of fire scientists and resource managers convened 17-19 April 1996 in Seattle, Washington, to assess the effects of fire disturbance on ecosystems. Objectives of this workshop were to develop scientific recommendations for future fire research and management activities. These recommendations included a series of numerically ranked scientific and managerial questions and responses focusing on (1) links among fire effects, fuels, and climate; (2) fire as a large-scale disturbance; (3) fire-effects modeling structures; and (4) managerial concerns, applications, and decision support. At the present time, understanding of fire effects and the ability to extrapolate fire-effects knowledge to large spatial scales are limited, because most data have been collected at small spatial scales for specific applications. Although we clearly need more large-scale fire-effects data, it will be more expedient to concentrate efforts on improving and linking existing models that simulate fire effects in a georeferenced format while integrating empirical data as they become available. A significant component of this effort should be improved communication between modelers and managers to develop modeling tools to use in a planning context. Another component of this modeling effort should improve our ability to predict the interactions of fire and potential climatic change at very large spatial scales. The priority issues and approaches described here provide a template for fire science and fire management programs in the next decade and beyond.