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Past, present, and future fire ecology and management across U.S. forests

A new book provides a broad synthesis of fire ecology in U.S. forests to aid in their sustainable management under climate change. USDA Forest Service scientists partnered with natural resource professionals and academic colleagues to compile a ‘state of the knowledge’ book on the past, present, and future of fire ecology and management in U.S. forests.

Fire burning on a forest floor.
Over the past 30 years, the land area burned by wildfires has quadrupled. Fire suppression and climate change are interacting to make wildfires more likely. Droughts are expected to become more severe – more common and longer lasting. Some experts suggest that by 2050, wildfire severity could increase up to six times. USDA Forest Service photo by Virginia McDaniel.

The book chapters delve into the fire ecology of major forest types within U.S. ecoregions, or study areas. The book includes discussion of historic and current fire regimes, as influenced by recent decades of fire suppression or removal of human-ignited fires, and land use history. The book also covers fire management in relation to ecosystem integrity and restoration, wildfire threat, and climate change.

In the U.S., the land area burned by wildfires has increased fourfold over the past 30 years. Federal wildfire suppression costs have escalated accordingly, partly driven by the need to protect property in the wildland-urban interface. Wildfire risk has increased due to decades of fire suppression and exclusion, along with warming temperatures and periodic droughts. These conditions have created a buildup of fuels, particularly in fire-prone ecosystems. Predicted increases in drought duration and frequency suggest the severity and area of wildfires might increase two to six times by mid-century in some western forest types. Larger, more severe fires can impact ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water resources, biodiversity, and wildlife habitats. This book provides comprehensive, ecoregion-specific information and management options for reducing wildfire risk into the future and maintaining biological diversity and ecosystem integrity across U.S. forests.

Principal Investigators
Katie H. Greenberg, Research Ecologist
Scott Goodrick, Center Director, Supervisory Research Meteorologist
Tara L. Keyser, Project Leader
Callie Schweitzer, Research Forester
RWUs
4157 - Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management
4156 - Center for Forest Disturbance Science
Publication
Introduction to fire ecology across USA forested ecosystems: Past, present, and future
CompassLive Article
New book on fire ecology and management across the U.S.
Research Partners
Daniel C. Dey, Northern Research Station
Christopher J. Fettig, Pacific Southwest Research Station
Paula J. Fornwalt, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Jessica E. Halofsky, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Brice B. Hanberry, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Paul F. Hessburg, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Serra Hoagland, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Sharon M. Hood, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Todd F. Hutchinson, Northern Research Station
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Robert E. Keane, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Matthew J. Reilly, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Victoria Saab, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Thomas A. Spies, Pacific Northwest Research Station
James M. Vose, Southern Research Station (retired)
Gabrielle N. Bohlman, Klamath National Forest
Ramona J. Butz, Six Rivers National Forest
Michelle Coppoletta, Plumas National Forest
Becky L. Estes, Eldorado National Forest
Shana E. Gross, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Kyle E. Merriam, Plumas National Forest
Marc D. Meyer, Inyo National Forest
Nicole A. Molinari, Los Padres National Forest
Hugh D. Safford, Pacific Southwest Region
Amarina Wuenschel, Sierra National Forest
Mike A. Battaglia, Rocky Mountain Research Station
External Partners
Paul R. Gagnon, US Army Corps of Engineers
Sammy L. King, US Geological Survey
Rachel Loehman, US Geological Survey
Daniel C. Donato, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Joshua S. Halofsky, Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Jeff S. Glitzenstein, Tall Timbers Research Station
J. Kevin Hiers, Tall Timbers Research Station
Brian Kittler, American Forests
Michael P. Schafale, North Carolina Natural Heritage Program
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Eric Sprague, American Forests
J. Morgan Varner, Tall Timbers Research Station
Gary R. Wein, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust
Heather D. Alexander, Auburn University
Mary Arthur, University of Kentucky
Loretta L. Battaglia, Southern Illinois University
J. Stephen Brewer, University of Mississippi
Blanca Céspedes, New Mexico Highlands University
William H. Conner, Clemson University
Carol L. Chambers, Northern Arizona University
Beverly S. Collins, Western Carolina University
Kimberly T. Davis, University of Montana
Catrin M. Edgeley, Northern Arizona University
Lee E. Frelich, University of Minnesota
Peter Z. Fulé, Northern Arizona University
Winslow D. Hansen, Columbia University
Craig A. Harper, University of Tennessee
Brian J. Harvey, University of Washington
Sally P. Horn, University of Tennessee
James Johnston, Oregon State University
Benjamin O. Knapp, University of Missouri
Meg A. Krawchuk, Oregon State University
Charles W. Lafon, Texas A&M University
Marcus A. Lashley, University of Florida
Craig G. Lorimer, University of Wisconsin
Ronald E. Masters, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Andrew Merschel, Oregon State University
Christopher E. Moorman, North Carolina State University
Cameron E. Naficy, Oregon State University
Robert K. Peet, University of North Carolina
David L. Peterson, University of Washington
Joanna Spooner, University of North Carolina
Michael C. Stambaugh, University of Missouri
Camille Stevens-Rumann, Colorado State University
Mark E. Swanson, Washington State University
Alan S. Weakley, University of North Carolina
Thomas R. Wentworth, North Carolina State University