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Wildfire risk and hazardous fuel reduction treatments along the US-Mexico border: A review of the science (1985-2019)

September 16, 2020

The ecosystems along the border between the United States and Mexico are at increasing risk to wildfire due to interactions among climate, land-use, and fuel loads. A wide range of fuel treatments have been implemented to mitigate wildfire and its threats to valued resources, yet we have little information about treatment effectiveness. To fill critical knowledge gaps, we reviewed wildfire risk and fuel treatment studies that were conducted near the US-Mexico border and published in the peer-reviewed literature between 1986 and 2019. The number of studies has grown during this time in warm desert to forest ecosystems on primarily federal lands. The most common study topics included fire effects on native species, the role of invasive species and woody encroachment on wildfire risk, historical fire regimes, and remote sensing and modeling to study wildfire risk across the landscape. A majority of fuel treatment studies focused on prescribed burns, and fuel treatments collectively had mixed effects on mitigating future wildfire risk and threats to ecosystems depending on vegetation and fire characteristics. The diversity of ecosystems and land ownership along the US-Mexico border present unique challenges for understanding and managing wildfire risk, and also create opportunities for collaboration and cross-site studies to promote knowledge across broad environmental gradients.