The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is the area where houses and wildland vegetation meet or intermingle, and where wildfire problems are most pronounced. Here we report that the WUI in the United States grew rapidly from 1990 to 2010 in terms of both number of new houses (from 30.8 to 43.4 million; 41% growth) and land area (from 581,000 to 770,000 km2; 33% growth), making it the fastest-growing land use type in the conterminous United States. The vast majority of new WUI areas were the result of new housing (97%), not related to an increase in wildland vegetation. Within the perimeter of recent wildfires (1990–2015), there were 286,000 houses in 2010, compared with 177,000 in 1990. Furthermore, WUI growth often results in more wildfire ignitions, putting more lives and houses at risk. Wildfire problems will not abate if recent housing growth trends continue.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers with the Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey showed that, across the U.S. on landscapes dominated by humans, climate has played a relatively small role in determining wildfire activity.Read More
This brief describes potential effects of two fuel treatment types for Northern California chaparral. Different scenarios involving prescribed fire, mastication and season (fall, winter, or spring) were explored to determine effects on chaparral and findings include recommendations on when and how to use treatments where necessary.Read More
This brief describes the advantages and evolution of postfire epicormic resprouting, where trees resprout from the trunk or stem of trees. This form of resprouting is more rare than resprouting from the base of plants and occurs in Australia and South Africa, as well as in California, the Mediterranean Basin and the Canary Islands in the northern hemisphere.Read More
Future climate-induced shifts in fire regimes and plant distributions could uncouple vegetation from the fire regimes for which they are adapted. The brief discusses changes to fire-adapted plant communities under modeled climate change scenarios and their implications on the Kaibab Plateau landscape.Read More
Using a geodatabase, researchers found that the maximum elevation extent of wildfires and the probability of wildfire occurrence above 3000 m have increased over the last century in the Sierra Nevada. This trend may accelerate vegetation shifts towards upper montane forest types in current subalpine systems.
Photo courtesy of Sasha BerlemanRead More
For desert shrubland species that have evolved without fire, the introduction of a grass-fire, positive feedback cycle is particularly problematic. This brief discusses work done by researchers who modeled the grass-fire cycle for non-fire-adapted desert shrublands under three sets of climate conditions.Read More
Fire is a strong driver of changes in montane forest structure in California’s Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade mountain ranges, which provide much of the snowpack and associated water storage for the state of California. This paper investigates how fire can influence snowpack and water storage.Read More
This research brief looks at changes in land cover, water, and forest health within the Illilouette Creek Basin in Yosemite National Park. This basin has a unique fire management history, with most areas burned in the last 40 years. Results suggest that fire has had a positive influence on a number of the Basin's ecosystem functions.Read More
Both Southern France and California have large amounts of housing in the Wildland Urban Interface where local vegetation is highly dense and fire adapted. This research brief compares the land use policies used to reduce the exposure of homes to wildfire in these two locations.Read More
Study results from arid regions in Southern California show how fire trends differ based on unique sets of circumstances. This brief discuses how combinations of direct drivers (like powerline and roadside ignitions), indirect drivers (like invasive grasses, air pollution, and landscape fragmentation terrestrial intactness) and unknown factors cause diversity in fire trends.Read More
Wildland firefighters suppressing wildland fires or conducting prescribed fires work long shifts and are exposed to high levels of smoke with no respiratory protection. This research measures firefighter exposure to smoke and pollutants and offers way to reduce this exposure.Read More