Presenter: Hugh Safford, USDA Forest Service, Regional Ecologist, Pacific Southwest Region
Description: Current and projected future trends in fire activity and climate suggest that fire frequency and area burned will increase in most of the world's Mediterranean-climate regions. A major focus of fire protection must be ante facto reduction of combustible fuels, but a major concern is the environmental and ecological impacts of such work. A general fire regime framework can be a useful lens through which to view the relationship between fuel reduction and ecological impact. Fuel reduction work in ecosystems typified by fire regimes characterized by frequent, low or moderate severity fires (e.g. yellow pine, mixed conifer) can be readily accomplished in a restorative framework. On the other hand, fuel reduction in ecosystems supporting "climate- or ignition-limited" fire regimes characterized by less frequent, high severity fires (chaparral, serotinous conifers, wet subalpine forests) is more likely to produce outcomes that are ecologically undesirable. In both fire regime types, successful integration of fuel reduction and ecological restoration requires a marriage between science and application, and strong collaborative frameworks that integrate public and private concerns, and ecological, social, and economic perspectives.