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Special Sessions

More than 20 special sessions have been accepted for the 2021 Fire Congress. Session titles, organizers, and a short summary are listed below. Each session will have several presentations related to the special session topic, with many including time for panels and facilitated discussion. 

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Actions for sustaining biodiversity in fire-prone ecosystems
Organizer: Luke Kelly, University of Melbourne

Fire has shaped global biodiversity for millennia. Yet anthropogenic climate change and land use are changing fire activity and its impacts on animals, plants and ecosystems. We bring together experts from six countries to explore emerging actions and strategies for sustaining biodiversity in ecosystems that experience fire.

Variation in fire regimes enables many plants to complete their life cycles, creates habitats for a range of animals, and maintains a diversity of ecosystems. Yet the effects of human activities are changing patterns of fire across the globe, to the detriment of biodiversity. Recent fires have burned ecosystems where wildfire has historically been rare or absent, from the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and South America to the tundra of the Arctic Circle. In other ecosystems fire seasons are getting longer, with more extreme wildfires predicted in forests and shrublands in Australia, southern Europe and western United States. But fire activity isn’t increasing everywhere. Grasslands in countries such as Brazil, Tanzania, and the United States have had fire activity reduced. These emerging changes pose a global challenge for understanding how to sustain biodiversity in a new era of fire. This requires improved knowledge of the interactions among fire and biodiversity, and new insights into conservation actions that will be effective in this changing environment.

A suite of emerging actions could be effective in promoting biodiversity in a new era of fire. This symposium will help to synthesize and develop these actions. It will explore when and where different actions and strategies have been implemented and evaluated, and how they are helping to promote biodiversity. Participating scientists from around the globe bring a wealth of knowledge on a range of taxa, ecosystems and management contexts: from plant responses to ‘managed wildfire’ and ecological restoration in forests of North America; to bird associations with fire in agricultural landscapes of the Mediterranean basin; to the role of planned burning and targeted fire suppression in large nature reserves of southern Australia.

Importantly, our symposium involves scientists at a range of career stages (including early career researchers) and aims to be inclusive of the diverse people working in fire and biodiversity conservation (including people from six countries).

Advances and Challenges for Indigenous fire stewardship
Organizer: Don Hankins, California State University – Chico

This session highlights examples, implications, and challenges of Indigenous fire stewardship. Panelists will discuss themes related to Indigenous fire stewardship for resilient and productive landscapes, opportunities for improved wildland fire management, and forging effective partnerships for implementation.

Indigenous peoples have played a significant role in shaping fire and climate resilient landscapes, but colonization and subsequent fire policy have created many issues ranging from wildfire impacts to ancestral homelands and threats to cultural continuity. The aftermath of recent fires has brought more attention to opportunities posed by Indigenous fire stewardship. Fire remains a fundamental element of Indigenous stewardship, and Indigenous peoples globally have been revitalizing their relationships with fire. Restoring Indigenous fire to the landscape is essential to achieving ecological and cultural outcomes in a climatically uncertain future. However, many challenges exist to achieving restoration of Indigenous stewardship including access to ancestral lands, capacity, funding, policy, and conflicting cultures of agencies and organizations. This session will draw upon panelists to discuss themes related to Indigenous fire stewardship for resilient and productive landscapes, opportunities for improved wildland fire management, and forging effective partnerships for implementation. The panels will be arranged to specific topical areas including 1) lessons in co-production of research and applied fire projects, 2) progress and status of Indigenous burning, and 3) a fire circle for audience engagement.

Applied science and management collaborations
Organizer: Joe Noble, Tall Timbers

This special session will highlight the USGS Burned Area science products and the results of collaborative efforts between scientists and fire managers. We will discuss the BA products, and highlight statewide and regional applications using the products, as well as additional research as a result of manager inputs.

The applied science/management special session will highlight the USGS Burned Area (BA) science products along with results of collaborative efforts between scientists and fire managers. We will discuss the BA products, highlight statewide and regional applications using the BA products, and discuss additional research to improve the products that was a direct result of manager inputs. The BA toolset can be used by researchers and managers alike to better understand fire impacts on landscapes.

Assessing wildland fuels and fire effects using high-resolution remote sensing 
Organizer: C. Alina Cansler, University of Washington

This session will include an overview and case studies of high-resolution remote sensing datasets — including terrestrial and aerial lidar, structure-for-motion data from hand-held cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles, canopy structure from areal imagery, — to assess wildland fuel structure and fire effects.

Rapid advances in remote sensing technologies including lidar, structure-from motion imagery and high-resolution satellite imagery, allow for the assessment of vegetation and fuel structure, fire severity, and longer-term post-fire vegetation response. These sensing methods can be employed from terrestrial, airborne, and spaceborne platforms, and multiple sensors and datasets with different spatial, spectral, and temporal resolutions are being used in combination. This session will include an overview of strengths and limitations of high-resolution data sources and interpretation. The first set of researchers will present studies that employ these dataset for wildland fuel characterization and connections to fluid dynamics fire spread models. The next set of presentation will focus on methods using unmanned areal vehicles to collect and use high-resolutions data. The final set of presentations will include research case studies that have used multi-temporal high resolutions data collection to look at long-term fire impacts. The session will conclude with a panel/audience discussion section.

Bayesian modeling and causal inference in wildfire risk assessment
Organizer: Matthew Thompson, USDA Forest Service

Bayesian networks (BNs) are probabilistic tools for graphing and evaluating causal knowledge and uncertainties in complex systems. We believe there is promise for application of BNs to salient fire ecology and management concerns. In this special session we welcome diverse perspectives on applications of BNs to ecological wildfire risk assessment.

Bayesian networks (BNs) are probabilistic tools for graphing and evaluating causal knowledge and uncertainties in complex systems. BNs have been used extensively in environmental modeling and ecological risk assessment, but with comparatively limited application in assessing the ecological impacts of wildfires. Some prominent applications of BNs in wildfire management include modeling fire occurrence and fire behavior, predicting home loss and property damages, predicting wildlife habitat impacts, and comparatively assessing alternative management scenarios. We believe there is promise for broader application of BNs to salient management concerns such as declining resilience of forests, inhibited post-fire regeneration, threat of type conversion, post-fire debris flows, and loss of carbon stability. Ultimately, BNs may facilitate understanding the factors contributing to ecological impacts, and the prediction and assessment of wildfire risks to fire-affected ecosystems. In this special session we welcome diverse perspectives on emerging or potential applications of BNs to ecological wildfire risk assessment.

Coupled fire atmospheric modeling: advances, applications, and opportunities 
Organizer: J. Kevin Hiers, US Geological Survey / Tall Timbers

Next generation modeling tools have received increasing attention in the research and training communities. This session looks at emerging tools, their capabilities and application space for fire management and fire ecology.

There is increasing recognition that next generation models are needed to address proactive solutions to the complex challenges facing fire managers, fire ecologists, and the public. Coupled fire atmospheric (CFA) models have been a staple for research over the past 20 years, but have more recently been applied to enhance training, prescribed fire planning, and wildfire suppression tactics. These tools can connect wildland fire environments to management actions such as ignition patterns, treatment manipulations, and fuel heterogeneity in ways that also allow for managers to expand decision space. Also, critically, these tools can help fire ecologists link fire effects to the variation in energy transfer at multiple scales, which lead to a mechanistic understanding of how fire drives ecosystem processes. As these tools have become more common, there is a need to present the diversity of approaches taken for modeling these complex interactions, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the suite of tools, and to work with managers to look for application opportunities for CFA models to improve fire management. In this session, we will present multiple modeling approaches, discuss the vegetative inputs that each requires, and the range of scales over which these tools can operate. We will also present training aids and demonstration projects initiated with the management community, ending with a panel discussion of managers and researchers designed to discuss priority applications, such as prescribed fire planning.

Fine fuel physics: measurement and models of moisture and flammability in 1-hr fuels
Organizer: Seth W. Bigelow, Forest Adaptation Research, LLC

One-hour time-lag fuels are the main drivers of diurnal fire behavior in frequent-fire ecosystems, yet their transient moisture and flammability dynamics have received little attention from modelers because they change quickly in response to atmospheric conditions and are hard to monitor continuously. This session will bring together modelers and experimentalists to present the current state of, and knowledge gaps in, fine fuels moisture and flammability science.

In ecosystems where build-up of large -diameter fuels is limited by frequent fire, live and dead fine fuels are major factors determining fire behavior. In contrast to larger-diameter fuels, their moisture content is challenging to monitor continuously, and the assumption that water content and flammability closely tracks atmospheric conditions has contributed to lack of scientific attention to transient dynamics of these fuels. Nevertheless, response of fine fuels to atmospheric conditions is modulated by many factors including tissue age, exposure to sun/shade, position within the forest canopy, and wind speed. We will explore current experimentation on factors determining fine fuel flammability, review statistical and process-based models for analyzing and predicting fine fuel moisture and flammability, and learn about management needs that may be addressed via the science of transient dynamics of fine fuels.

Fire in the southern Appalachians: past, present, and future resilience
Organizer: E. Louise Loudermilk, USDA Forest Service

The Southern Appalachians are a biodiverse region where recent wildfires and novel weather conditions signal that climatic shifts may challenge forest resilience. We follow up on research sparked by the novel 2016 wildfire season and present on climatology, meteorology, ecology, physics, and management.

We will convene a panel of speakers to discuss how human-caused fire and wildfires have shaped and will shape the vegetation and ecology of the Southern Appalachians. The Southern Appalachians are a biodiverse region that has been shaped by fire over many millennia, particularly intentional burning by indigenous peoples and subsistence farming. The past century has also changed this ecosystem through fire removal, prescribed burning, tree disease and insects, timber harvest as well as ecological feedbacks associated with soil organic layer formation and burning. Recent large fires and novel weather and fuel conditions signal that climatic shifts may challenge forest resilience. In this session, we follow up on research sparked by the novel wildfire season that occurred in the Fall of 2016. Our speakers will bring a variety of perspectives of management and ecology with topics including human influence (indigenous to current prescribed burning practices), weather and climatic patterns, such as mountain wave wind events, nuanced and unexpected fire effects, including tree response from the 2016 fires based on field and remote sensing studies, and modeling studies of ecological resilience and smoke dynamics in novel conditions.

Frontiers of post-fire tree regeneration in a rapidly changing landscape 
Organizer: Jeff Kane, Humboldt State University

This special session will share the latest scientific findings regarding post-fire tree regeneration and recovery across a wide range of ecosystems, scales, and perspectives. The session will commence with a discussion of future directions of inquiry regarding post-fire regeneration.

The rapid shift in climate and associated changes in wildfire activity in many regions throughout the globe have prompted substantial interest in post-fire tree regeneration and the ability of ecosystems to recover following fire. Recent advances in our understanding of the complex responses of tree regeneration have provided helpful insight into developing better predictive models and determining future trajectories. This special session will share the latest scientific research on post-fire regeneration and recovery across a wide range of ecosystems, scales, and perspectives. Information presented here will help stimulate future work to advance the science on this topic and will provide insights to managers interested in anticipating impacts and improving ecosystem responses to both fire and climate changes. Contributors to the special session will convene for a panel discussion to identify lingering knowledge gaps and areas for future study on the topic of post-fire regeneration.

Getting into the Weeds: Fire, Invasive Plants and Disturbance Interactions
Organizer: Becky Kerns, USDA Forest Service

We get into the weeds and explore the effects of fire and invasive plant interactions in a companion session to the Inter-relationships Between Invasive Species and Fire Management session. Our first session is focused on annual grasses, and our second session on other invasive plants, climate change, and co-managing fire and invasive plants.

Whether disturbance mediated or not, invasive plants can facilitate dramatic ecosystem change by altering fire regimes. Changes in fire regimes due to plant invasion are driven by fundamental alterations in the spatial and temporal fuel structure on the landscape. For example, invasive grasses often increase fine fuel biomass through higher productivity; extend horizontal and vertical fuel connectivity through novel structures, such as a continuous horizontal spatial pattern in infilled gaps and monocultures; and increase flammability due to their high surface area to volume ratio and seasonal phenology distinct from native species. Many invasive plants also exhibit rapid postfire recovery rates which increase post-burn fuel loads and often reduce fire return intervals within a community, creating a positive invasion-fire feedback loop. Climate change can also increase plant invasion by stressing existing native species, altering ecosystem dynamics such as competition and wildfire regimes, and provide new invasion opportunities. A deeper and more nuanced understanding of the potential impacts of invasive plants as a wildland fuel and interactions with other disturbances is critical to building resilient landscapes. We get into the weeds and explore the effects and feedbacks of fire and invasive plants, and interactions with other disturbances. This session is a companion to the “Inter-relationships Between Invasive Species and Fire Management” session (Matt Brooks, USGS). Speakers in this session will also participate in the joint Fire Circle “Information Needs for the Management of Fire and Invasive Species”.

Increasing social and ecological resilience to wildfire risk: the role of collective action
Organizer: Maureen Essen, USDA Forest Service

This session will examine ways to frame wildfire risk as a boundary crossing collective action problem to deepen our understanding of collective solutions and the role of landscape-based contexts in forming wildfire adaptation strategies.

COVID-19, floods, earthquakes, and climate change are all examples of complex, wicked problems that do not respect jurisdictional boundaries and thus often benefit from collective action. Collective action problems arise when social and environmental problems are connected to the everyday actions of large numbers of people and therefore require the engagement of large numbers of people to participate in shared solutions. Wildfire risk can also be compared to the shared, collective risk of social and environmental hazards as it can also spread across boundaries and requires collective action to mitigate. Given this similarity, how do we address wildfire informed by the understanding of the need for a collective response? This session will examine ways to frame wildfire risk as a boundary crossing collective action problem to deepen our understanding of collective solutions and the role of landscape-based contexts in forming wildfire adaptation strategies.

Inter-relationships between invasive plants and fire management
Organizer: Matt Brooks, US Geological Survey

Fire can affect invasive plant populations which in turn can affect fire behavior and regimes. This special session will assess the challenges faced by land managers where the realms of fire and invasive species meet and summarize the available science to inform management planning and actions to promote ecosystem resilience.

Research associated with wildland fire and invasive species are each well established and recognized with their own scientific journals and professional organizations. The nexus between the two is much less developed, however, and there is still much to learn. While threats posed by the synergistic invasive grass and fire cycle in arid and semi-arid shrublands are widely understood, there are opportunities to better incorporate that understanding into efficient and coordinated management practices. Similarly, fire suppression by invasive shrubs (e.g. privet, Brazilian pepper, Elaegus spp.) and pyrogenic characteristics of invasive grasses (e.g. cogongrass, silkreed) are well-understood in the context of prescribed burning but coordinated management practices are lacking. The potential threats of other invasive species in other ecosystems remain less understood. Identifying, prioritizing, and mitigating threats of invasive species and altered fire regimes at all phases of both the invasion (pre-introduction, early detection, rapid response, containment, mitigation, recovery) and fire management cycles (before, during, and after fires) are important next steps for scientific inquiry by both communities. It has been over a decade since the last comprehensive overview of the state of science and management associated with fire and invasives in the United States (Zouhar et al. 2008). Much new science has been published and new management realities have emerged since then. In 2019 a task team was created by the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) in collaboration with the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) to identify key goals and associated opportunities to promote active invasive species management to reduce risks from wildfire as well as reduce the introduction/reintroduction of invasive species after wildfire. One of the key goals this team identified was to improve the understanding of the interactions at the nexus of wildland fire and invasive species. Specifically, they highlighted the need to develop a state of the science report at ecoregional levels that informs key research and management needs. The special session that we propose will work towards this goal by catalyzing the creation of a new document building upon Zouhar et al. 2008 which will provide current state of science and recommendations for the integrated management of fire and invasives in the United States. We will also propose a fire circle following the special session that will provide opportunities for Congress attendees to interact with the special session organizers and speakers and offer their suggestions making the final document most useful for planners and practitioners of fire and invasive species management.

Moving towards system resiliency: leveraging wildfire operations data for discovery, prediction, and optimization
Organizer: Yu Wei, Colorado State University

Collecting, disseminating, and integrating large data set is the fundamental task of fire management decision science. Our presentations demonstrate how descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analyses can work cohesively to improve fire management decisions in the western US.

Wildfire is a natural disturbance with a long history of influencing and being influenced by human activities. Interactions between wildfire and human society have dramatically increased during the past century due to factors such as wildland-urban interface (WUI) expansion and climate change. To improve our ability to quantify wildfire risk, fire benefits, and our influence on fire through fuel treatments and suppression, innovative fire and management data collection, dissemination, and integration is needed. This special session covers a diverse set of data sources and analytical methods to identify major biological, geographical, and management factors that could increase or decrease fire threats to WUI and other values, to describe the effectiveness of current fire suppression and fuel treatment practices, and to predict the probability of potential fire impacts. To build a bridge between fire science, fuel treatments and suppression practices, operations research (OR) models can be developed to integrate descriptive measurements and predicted risks into structured systems models. Such models allow managers to study the tradeoffs between alternative policies and management strategies. This special session also covers presentations in building innovative OR models in fire operations and fuel treatment planning.

Post-fire tree mortality: understanding and modeling tree death and improving decision support
Organizer: Sharon Hood, USDA Forest Service

Tree mortality from wildfire fire has numerous consequences. This session will present new research on physiological effects of fire on trees, mortality modelling (both statistical and process), predicting mortality from remote sensing, and increasing capacity in decision support systems.

Each year wildland fires kill and injure trees on millions of forested hectares globally, affecting plant and animal biodiversity, carbon storage, hydrologic processes, and ecosystem services. The underlying mechanisms of fire-caused tree mortality remain poorly understood, however, limiting the ability to accurately predict mortality and develop robust modeling applications, especially under novel future climates. This special session will present recent research on post-fire physiological effects and tree mortality and different approaches to modeling mortality from fine to coarse scales, including statistical and process models and models based on remote sensing. The session will conclude with new advances and possibilities in decision support systems. This special session will be paired with a Fire Circle to discuss the research and ideas presented and what additional work is needed.

Recovering resilience: post-fire forested landscapes and future management implications
Organizer: Nicholas Povak, USDA Forest Service

The onset of the 21st century saw the dawn of a new era in wildfire-climate interactions that has led to rapid increases in large, high severity fire frequency in the western US and beyond. As a result, much of the forested area in the region is in a state of recovery, creating high uncertainty in their ability to return to a forested state under natural pathways. Management interventions targeting both short- and long-term vegetation recovery, as well as salvage operations to recoup lost wood supply, have demonstrated both positive and negative effects on post-fire vegetation recovery. As the amount of area affected by stand replacing fire accumulates, there is a need to better understand the factors most challenging to post-fire regeneration recovery and identify areas most at risk of regeneration failures or forest type conversions. These factors relate to the complex scale-wise interactions between climate, biophysical environments, pre- and post-fire vegetation conditions, post-fire weather, and other biotic and abiotic stressors. This special session will explore recent trends in post-fire vegetation recovery and management responses across the western US. We will focus on the variability of responses of major conifer species to recent high severity fires across the region and identify major themes in the need for post-fire management interventions to foster future forest development. These themes will then serve the basis for integrating post-fire management into larger landscape-level prescriptions to better leverage the restorative properties of fire across the landscape and to identify opportunities for management to prioritize restoration treatments.

As we face a new and uncertain future under ongoing climate change, managers need tools capable of assessing and implementing post-fire treatments to best serve regional landscape needs. Restoration strategies informed by state-of-the-science models to predict probable post-fire vegetation trajectories will help identify areas that will benefit most from intervention.

The Fire Learning Network: 20 years of advancing collaborative fire practices in the U.S.
Organizer: Emily Hohman, The Nature Conservancy

Leaders from the Fire Learning Network share stories of how inclusive, public-private fire collaboratives have been challenging mainstream approaches to fire management for 20 years. Examples include supporting landowners and multi-partner cooperatives in using fire, using pre-fire planning as a collaboration tool, and building social license for fire use.

The Fire Learning Network (FLN; supports diverse partnerships focused on restoring the role of fire for the benefit of nature and people. Local fire collaboratives work in an “all-hands, all-lands” way, developing shared goals and implementing plans to promote resilient ecosystems and minimize negative wildfire outcomes. Developed by The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service and the DOI Office of Wildland Fire in response to the National Fire Plan, the FLN has never been more relevant than it is today.

Since 2002, the FLN has connected 166 landscape collaboratives in 40 states, engaged nearly 1,600 partners and leveraged more than $84 million toward effective restoration and maintenance of healthy forests and grasslands with fire. As fire management challenges become increasingly complex and urgent, the FLN’s momentum continues to grow.

In this session, place-based network leaders will share their stories and demonstrate what’s possible when local land and fire managers forge strong ties and invest in building community. These local collaboratives are demonstrating how sustained and inclusive engagement of residents, fire departments, agencies, etc. is the pathway to durable change. Speakers will relay their experiences (1) empowering local California landowners via prescribed burn associations, (2) using potential operational delineations (PODs) as a tool for collaboration, (3) building and sustaining cooperative burn models, and 4) using prescribed fire to engage communities and build social license for fire.

The nexus of climate change and fire: taking science to action
Organizer: Molly Hunter, Joint Fire Science Program/University of Arizona

Addressing the unprecedented challenges of climate change, wildland fire, and human land use requires interdisciplinary and cross-boundary science and partnerships to characterize ecosystem and community vulnerability, depict future scenarios, and devise innovative management solutions. This session explores science needs and examines regional case studies highlighting interdisciplinary and cross-boundary collaborations.

Addressing the nexus between climate change, wildland fire, and human land use is now an urgent 21st century challenge that requires an interdisciplinary and cross-boundary–or actionable science approach. Evidence is abundant that fire regimes are shifting due to climate change, widespread vegetation mortality and die-off, spread of invasive species, and expanding wildland-urban intermix zones, with significant and long-lasting implications for ecosystems and society. To address this unprecedented policy and management challenge, multiple pathways are needed for interdisciplinary and cross-boundary research that characterizes the vulnerability of ecosystems and society to changing fire regimes, depicts plausible future scenarios of fire regimes and ecosystem change, and devises potential management solutions to minimize negative societal and ecological impacts. The science needed to address this challenge is extremely complex and requires a level of cross-scale, cross-disciplinary, and science-management collaborations beyond what was necessary to address past land management challenges. At minimum, expertise in fire science, fire ecology, climatology, and ecosystem modeling are needed to assess the vulnerability of ecosystems to changing fire regimes and plausible futures for fire regimes and ecosystems. Ecological, economic, and social science disciplines are needed to understand the implications of these ongoing, rapid changes for effectively managing the risk to ecosystems and society. Socio-ecological expertise also is needed to assess the feasibility and efficacy of both traditional and novel management strategies to facilitate their implementation at appropriate scales. Many funding and boundary organizations operate somewhere within this research framework, driven by their particular missions and areas of emphasis and expertise. However, no one organization has or likely will have the capacity to address the entire scope of science and science information exchange needed to inform strategies for managing changing fire regimes. Therefore, it will be critical for active engagement and partnership among scientists, boundary organizations, and science end users, to assure best available science is used to inform difficult and uncertain management decisions using a more wholistic, actionable science framework. This includes developing authentic partnerships with Tribes and Indigenous communities who, as the original stewards of their ancestral homelands, bring a millennia of knowledge and experience adapting to gradual and rapid environmental change. Moving forward, advances in science and science application could be accelerated if funding organizations, boundary organizations, Tribes, and management agencies work together to leverage and maximize the impact of research collaborations and multi-scaled partnerships. The purpose of this session is to provide a forum for science funding organizations, boundary organizations, scientists, practitioners, and managers to explore the science needed for effective, proactive management at the nexus of climate change, fire, and land use change. By highlighting examples of interdisciplinary and cross-boundary partnerships across diverse regions of the U.S., this session will serve as a launching point for establishing future collaborations and partnerships that address these urgent science and management challenges through delivery of actionable science.

The role of fire across U.S. oak forest  ecosystems: sharing varied ecologies to realize unifying themes
Organizer: Michael Stambaugh, University of Missouri

This session aims to showcase varied oak forest ecosystems and the challenges that they face with particular emphasis on fire ecology and management.

This session will showcase the variability in U.S. oak forest ecosystems by highlighting the challenges they face with particular emphasis on fire ecology and management. Presentations will cover ecosystems in the northeast, northwest, central, and southeastern U.S. Each presentation will cover similar topics so to identify potential unifying themes, disparities, and gaps in knowledge. Topics will include historical ecology, ecosystem function, and current challenges and interests in sustaining oak forest ecosystems, including future directions in research and management.

Wilderness for science: multidisciplinary perspectives on the causes and consequences of active fire regimes
Organizer: Andrew J Larson, Wilderness Institute and Department of Forest Management, University of Montana

Managing fire as an ecosystem process in wilderness and parks enables scientific discoveries because fire itself, as well as ecosystem response to fire, is not confounded by intensive management or extractive land uses. Speakers will present recent wilderness fire science advances spanning multiple disciplines, including human, terrestrial, and aquatic ecology.

Scientific discoveries made possible by contemporary active fire regimes in large parks and wilderness areas are an enduring legacy of wilderness fire management. In the United States, the shift in the late 1960s and early 1970s to manage fire as an ecosystem processes in some national parks and wilderness areas paved the way for the transition of national fire policy from “fire control” to “fire management.” Managing fire as an ecosystem process in wilderness and parks enables scientific discoveries because fire itself, as well as ecosystem response to fire, is not confounded by intensive management, extractive land uses, or the presence of roads that facilitate fire suppression. At the same time, evidence suggests that some sites, now protected as federally designated wilderness areas where “man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” were once intentionally managed with fire by indigenous peoples. This calls into question fundamental assumptions about the concepts of naturalness and natural fire regimes. In this special session, speakers will present recent wilderness fire science advances spanning multiple disciplines: from human ecology and physical geography, to hydrology and riparian and aquatic ecology, to terrestrial forest and landscape fire ecology. Presentations of recent and ongoing research will be complemented by new results revealed by a systematic literature review of wilderness fire science.

Wildfire simulation under future climate change: methods and applications
Organizer: Alex Dye, Oregon State University

In this session, we invite presenters to contribute ongoing and completed research related to wildfire simulation modeling under future climate scenarios, both in terms of new and updated methodology, as well as novel applications of fire simulation models that may arise with future climate change.

Technical advances in wildfire simulation modeling over recent decades have opened the door for robust calculations of fire size, frequency, and spread rate. These advances have led to the development of an array of useful products that quantify contemporary fire impacts, including regional risk assessments, fire probability mapping, and near-term fire spread prediction. However, future climate change introduces the likelihood that climate and fuels will differ from the contemporary period. Keeping pace with climate change requires the adjustment of existing fire simulation models and/or development of novel modeling approaches that can account for the uncertainty in future climate and its relationship with fire frequency, size, and spread. In this session, we invite presenters to contribute both ongoing and completed research related to the theme of wildfire simulation modeling under future climate scenarios. Presenters are encouraged, but not required, to address one or all supporting themes: a) development of new and updated methodology; b) novel applications of fire simulation models that may arise with future climate change; and c) incorporating future wildfire simulations into planning and forest management strategies. Modeling approaches and applications conducted at all spatial scales are welcome (including single site, regional, and global scale).

What we know about landscape fuel treatment effectiveness
Organizer: Theresa Jain, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station 

A team of Forest Service scientists from throughout the United States were funded by the Joint Fire Science Program to produce the state-of-knowledge on landscape fuel-treatment effectiveness. We will present a synthesis on the current literature using five presentations and a summary of what we have learned in this session.

A team of scientists from throughout the United States were funded by the Joint Fire Science Program to produce the state-of-knowledge on landscape fuel-treatment effectiveness. We will present a synthesis on the current literature using five presentations and a summary of what we have learned in this session. Five papers will be presented quantifying fire hazard and fuel treatment effectiveness. The first presentation discusses a way to quantify fire hazard and fuel treatment effectiveness from stands to landscapes, which providing the foundation of the session. Three presentations will follow that focus on specific results from a broad literature synthesis separated on our current knowledge from empirical studies, simulation studies, and management/wildland fire case studies. We conclude the session focusing on what we clearly understand, what we find to be ambiguous and that needs additional research, and what proposed strategies would move our understanding forward. Key takeaways from this synthesis are that there is little information available in the literature that specifically focuses on landscape fuel treatment effectiveness, that there are inconsistent definitions of what is meant by “landscape fuel treatment effectiveness”, and that there is a broad range of methods and approaches diminishing our ability to make inferences and quantify specific effectiveness attributes to guide future implementation of fuel treatments intended to alter fire behavior within and outside fuel treatment boundaries.