Research & Publications
Documents, publications, photos, videos, and more, brought to you by the California Fire Science Consortium.
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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.
In an era of concern over climate change, it's important to understand how different kinds of fire-adapted of ecosystems in California may respond to climate change in relation to fire. This study categorized Californian ecosystems into three types and discusses how each may be affected by climate change and fire.
The design and materials used in construction is critical to preventing structure loss during wildland urban interface (WUI) fires. This research helps planners and homeowners by ranking specific construction materials by fire safety effectiveness, then comparing their use to landscape-scale design attributes.
Overall, the results of this study add support to the existing theory that diverse fire increases biodiversity in certain ecosystems. Specifically, this study showed that higher diversity of fire severity patterns within a fire lead to more bird diversity, especially in the fire prone semi-arid forests of the Sierra Nevada.
Photo: Nine years after the Moonlight fire in Plumas county, California, the landscape shows remarkable resilience with a diversity of habitat structure and birds. Photo courtesy Morgan Tingley.
Five different Mediterranean Type Ecosystems (MTEs) around the world have evolutionarily converged in function with analogous vegetation types. With gorgeous photographic samplers to illustrate each type, we learn why these fire-adapted systems host more biodiversity than every other terrestrial ecosystem outside of the wet tropics.
Just like soil and climate, fire has been shaping plant communities in fire-prone ecosystems around the world for millions of years. The proof is in the evolution of fire-adapted plant traits, a common theme for the following two research papers.
Because the evidence for fire as an evolutionary force is so overwhelming, Pausas et al. (2016) conveniently organized fire-adapted plant species into three syndromes for better management. The resulting Non-Fast-Hot syndrome scheme shows how different plant species likely evolved to either resist or use three dimensions of flammability (ignitability, fire spread rate, and heat release) for higher fitness.
A comparison of two historical fire history data sets, the State of California Fire and Resource Protection (FRAP) database and a database based on annual state and federal written reports, found substantial differences between the two.
Site-scale sampling methodologies could be misleading, especially for arid, geographically heterogeneous, biodiversity hotspots. These authors (Taylor et al. 2012) use a landscape-scale methodology to examine one such habitat, 'tree mallee' that has similar fire and ecologic traits to central and southern semi-arid habitats like chaparral. In addition, this study shows that postfire age class heterogeneity doesn’t increase avian species richness in this semi-arid habitat with long fire return intervals.
The likely effects of drought associated with climate change in the United States have recently been synthesized by James M. Vose, James S. Clark, Charles H. Luce and Toral Patel-Weynand. Here we summarize their conclusions as they apply to drought and fire and provide examples of how these conditions are affecting different ecosystems in California.
The King Fire burned through an area used for a long-term (23 years) demography study of spotted owls in the central Sierra Nevada, allowing the authors to compare the number and distribution of owls both before and one year after the fire.
In Southern California, fuel treatment strategies often put fire risk reduction and biodiversity conservation goals at odds with each other. In response to this conflict, two of our briefs (Syphard et al. 2016; Butsic et al. 2016) explore a novel new approach.
The authors assessed relative and absolute changes in wildfire area and severity in seven forest types arrayed along an elevational gradient in the Sierra Nevada and adjacent forested mountains. Findings suggest that there is a major fire “deficit” in the greater Sierra Nevada Region, across all major forest types. However, the nature of this deficit differs among forest types.
The authors of this paper investigated whether or not prescribed fire can create conditions that will reduce drought induced mortality in mixed conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada.
Bohlman et al. conducted a study looking at the effects of post-fire reforestation on understory plant species richness and composition, as well as stand structure. Three different aged fires were selected to assess the role of time since fire on the different stand components.
Results from a 2016 study by Coppoletta and others suggests that in areas where fire regimes and forest structure have been dramatically altered, contemporary fires have the potential to set forests on a positive feedback trajectory with successive reburns, one in which extensive stand-replacing fire could promote more stand-replacing fire.
In a review article by Jon Keeley and Alex Syphard, examples from California show that fire regimes are sensitive to geographic and seasonal variation in the climate signal and that many factors will confound the ability to model future conditions.
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This study focuses on climate change and increasing human populations as two potential causes of the increasing number and size of wildfire in the western US.
The authors demonstrate how combining detailed field measurements with remote sensing imagery is a valuable method for capturing the spatial arrangement and variation of fuel loading in a chaparral landscape.
A 2012 study by Miller and others suggests that fire management approaches used by the National Park Service in Yosemite National Park could assist in the restoration and maintenance of Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems.
Why aren’t globally successful, weedy plant species generally found at high altitudes? This study suggests that it’s due to extreme abiotic conditions in association with the alien species’ life history traits, not a lack of opportunity.
These presentations are meant to provide background and fire prevention mitigation strategies for land use planners utilizing current science findings of the day. These three presentations provide targeted information and background that may be useful for a variety of planners.
Mr. Pratt in 1911 published an argument against the “light burning” practices of those days, claiming these small fires were unnecessary and only caused an expensive loss of merchantable lumber over the years. Like other light-burning advocates, he had no research on his side.
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In a collaborative project funded by the non-profit Desert Tortoise Council with Natural Resource Conservation LLC, the authors synthesized published literature and practitioner’s experiences to develop best-management practices for habitats of desert tortoises.
Collaboratively with the National Park Service, the authors performed a study along Northshore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area (eastern Mojave Desert, Nevada) to develop biocrust restoration strategies. Results and management recommendations for the most effective restoration methods are discussed.
In the early 20th century, there was an intense controversy over systematic “light burning, the practice of using cool fire as a management tool (similar to what we call prescribed fires today). These practices for fire control were highly debated before fire suppression policies overwhelmingly prevailed. Presented here is a series of research briefs that review publications from this controversy at this interesting look into history.
This research brief discusses the lessons learned from the costly fires of 2003 in Southern California. Recommendations on future fuel reduction strategies and placement are discussed.
While not written specifically about traditional cultural fire use, the framework discussed in this paper can also be applied to incorporating tribal public values into "place-based decision support technologies that are accessible to lay citizens as well as to fire-management experts."
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Old-growth chaparral systems are biodiversity hotspots that need to be protected for legal, functional, and ethical reasons. This learning module describes these Mediterranean Type Climate systems from a global perspective so that we can better protect them.
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In northern, southern, coastal, and interior California, examples exist of paired sibling Arctostaphylos subspecies exhibiting two alternate life strategies for surviving disturbance: resprouting and obligate seeding. This is a wonderful opportunity to observe how natural selection might favor one life strategy type over another, particularly in “an era of rapid climate change."