Fire and Ecosystems

The majority of U.S. forests and grasslands are adapted to fire. Past management actions such as grazing, introduction of non-native species, and organized fire suppression, have drastically altered historical fire regimes. Climate change and increasing human expansion into wildlands are further exacerbating changes to vegetation and fuels from historical conditions. Changes in vegetation and fuels patterns, coupled with climate change, also affect biotic disturbances that interact with wildland fire. These interactions and stresses are changing contemporary fire regimes, degrading ecosystem resilience and altering fuel hazard. Knowledge of fire effects and ecology in fire-dependent ecosystems is essential to develop fuel-related products, treatment alternatives, restoration strategies, and accurate forecasting of future conditions.

Projects in Fire and Ecosystems

Displaying 1 - 42 of 42
A Century of Change in a Ponderosa Pine Forest
1909-present
Living things change constantly, as do communities of living things. In a forest, where individual trees can live for centuries and new plants replace old plants, it is not easy to visualize the changes that occur over time. This photoseries documents changes in a ponderosa pine forest from 1909 to 2015. Download high-resolution photos here. See…
ArcFuels
2005-present
Vegetation and fuel management planning is a complex problem that requires advanced vegetation and fire behavior modeling and intensive spatial data analyses. Both the benefits and potential impacts of proposed treatments must be clearly demonstrated in the context of land management goals and public expectations. Potential fire behavior metrics,…
Assessment of community wildfire exposure in the western US
2016-present
The first comprehensive assessment of where public wildlands in the Western US potentially contribute wildfire exposure to communities. Predicting wildfire disasters presents a major challenge to the field of risk science, especially when fires are propagated over long distances through diverse fuel types and complex terrain. A good example is in…
Black Carbon from Fires in Northern Eurasia
2002-Present
Northern Eurasia covers 20% of the global land mass and contains 70% of the boreal forest. During certain times of the year, black carbon (BC) in smoke plumes at high latitudes may be transported and deposited on Arctic ice, thereby accelerating ice melting. It is thus imperative to better understand daily sources, transport, and deposition of BC…
Climate Change on Global Fire Danger
2014-present
Wildfires occur at the intersection of dry weather, available fuel, and ignition sources. Weather is the most variable and largest driver of regional burned area. Temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, and wind speed independently influence wildland fire spread rates and intensities. The alignment of multiple weather extremes, such as the…
Describing Wildland Fuels
2012-Present
Considerable effort is expended to determine fuel loadings and to map those loadings across the landscape, yet there is little or no work being done to determine how to incorporate those measurements into the next generation of fire behavior models, such as physics-based models. Identifying critical spatial and temporal fuel characteristics…
Evaluating Fuel Treatment Effectiveness
2013-present
Increasingly intense fire seasons, rapidly changing ecosystems, and an expanding wildland-urban interface all increase the hazard that fires pose to communities, watersheds, and ecosystems. Fuel treatments offer managers an opportunity to proactively mitigate threats to firefighters and communities as well as to maintain or restore healthy…
FastFuels: 3D Fuels for Next Generation Fire Models
2020-present
Advanced 3D fire models offer new possibilities for detailed analysis of fuel treatments and prescribed fires. However, the spatially explicit, detailed 3D fuels data they require is difficult to get, particularly for large areas. FastFuels opens the door to this kind of modeling by combining existing fuels and spatial data with cutting edge…
Fire Effects Information System (FEIS)
1986-present
Thousands of scientific articles and reports are published each year on wildland fire, making it difficult for managers, planners, and scientists to find, read, and use the best available science. A team of ecologists reviews this information and publishes syntheses online in the Fire Effects Information System (FEIS), so managers can easily find…
Fire Lab Seminar Series
The Seminar Series runs from Fall to Spring
The Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory has been hosting an annual seminar series since 1998. Hour-long seminars are presented by Fire Lab employees and other researchers from throughout the world. Seminars cover current research and management about the natural world from a broad range of disciplines, but most seminars usually have a wildland fire…
Fire Management, Zambia
2014 - present
A team of four individuals, supported through the U.S. Forest Service International Programs, convened in October 2014 to conduct a fire regime assessment in Eastern Province of Zambia. The team, which included a multinational assemblage from the United States and Zambia, was tasked with the following objectives: 1) gain preliminary insights into…
FireBGCv2 - landscape fire model
1990-present
FireBGCv2 is a computer modeling program and platform that mechanistically simulates fire, vegetation, climate, and fuels dynamics across multiple space and time scales. The spatially explicit ecosystem process model FireBGCv2 is a landscape fire and vegetation model C++ computer program that incorporates several types of stand dynamics models…
FIREHARM - Fire hazard and risk model
2008-present
Mapping fire hazard and risk across multiple spatial scales. This project involves the development of a research computer model called FIREHARM (FIRE HAzard and Risk Model) that computes common measures of fire behavior, fire danger, and fire effects over space to use as variables to portray fire hazard spatially, and then computes fire risk by…
FOFEM - fire effects model
1995- present
FOFEM (a First Order Fire Effects Model) is a computer program for predicting tree mortality, fuel consumption, smoke production, and soil heating caused by prescribed fire or wildfire. First order fire effects are those that concern the direct or indirect or immediate consequences of fire. First order fire effects form an important basis for…
FPARDY - Fuel PARticle DYnamics
2016-present
Exploring surface and canopy fuel characteristics at the particle, layer, and fuelbed levels across major forest ecosystem types of the US northern Rocky Mountains. The research project FPARDY (Fuel PARticle DYnamics), is a multifaceted study to explore surface and canopy fuel characteristics at the particle, layer, and fuelbed levels across…
FuelCalc - Canopy fuel calculator and model
2006-present
FuelCalc is a desktop software application for determining changes in surface and crown fuel loading after thinning, pruning, piling and/or prescribed fire. Ground, surface, and canopy fuel characteristics serve as essential inputs to computer models of fire behavior and fire effects. FuelCalc is a software system for assisting local and regional…
Fuels and potential fire behavior in balsam woolly adelgid-impacted forests
2020-present
We are developing a product and methodology that allows rapid assessment of fuels and potential fire hazard in forests impacted by the non-native balsam woolly adelgid (BWA) to better protect and improve the health of western America’s high-elevation fir forests. We will 1) compare fuel metrics derived from standard field procedures with aerial…
LANDFIRE Overview
2004-present
An overview of LANDFIRE organization, processes, and products. LANDFIRE produces consistent national-level, landscape-scale geospatial products to support fire and fuels management planning, analysis, and budgeting to evaluate fire management alternatives. Principal partners in the production process are the United States Department of Interior (…
LANDFIRE ReMap
2014-present
Scoping for comprehensive decadal remapping in order capture gradual, cumulative, and broad-scale changes for the entire LANDFIRE mapping area has begun. This remap will capture changes due to drought, invasive species, vegetation succession, disturbance, and loss of open space. The main objective of this effort is to create a new "base map" (top…
Lodgepole fire history
2017-present
Lodgepole pine-dominated forest is the third most extensive forest type in western North America, covering 15 million acres in the western United States. Over much of this extensive range, surprisingly little is known about historical fire regimes. While these regimes are commonly characterized as infrequent and stand-replacing, like those found…
Long term wildfire management in areas near Chernobyl
2013 - present
This project examined natural and human drivers of wildfires in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl explosion. This project investigated the issue of radionuclide resuspension from wildland fires in areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion. The work was originated from a scientific exchange among scientists from the USDA…
Long-term restoration synergies
2016 - present
Long-term restoration synergies between wildfire and forest management on fire frequent landscapes. Our objective was to examine whether accelerated management can maintain or promote desired ecological conditions under potential future fire regimes that are amplified by either climate, fire management policies, or a combination of the two. We…
LSim forest landscape management model
2017- present
The Forest Vegetation Simulator was integrated with the FSim wildfire simulation model to conduct research on long term management and wildfire feedbacks. Forest landscape models (FLMs) are important tools used to address a wide range of forest management policy tradeoffs on public and private forests. Several recent studies using FLMs have…
Lubrecht Fire-Fire Surrogate Study
2000-present
Fire frequency in low-elevation coniferous forests in western North America has greatly declined since the late 1800s. In many areas, this has increased tree density and the proportion of shade- tolerant species, reduced resource availability, and increased forest susceptibility to forest insect pests and high-severity wildfire. In response,…
Mapping and modeling fuels and fire at the Sycan Marsh, Oregon
2017 - present
The research being performed through multidisciplinary collaboration efforts at TNC’s Sycan Marsh Preserve in Oregon is providing much needed data for fuel mapping efforts by linking surface fuel datasets with TLS and UAS data pre, during, and post-fire. It also provides essential data for fire mapping and behavioral understanding of forest and…
National Fire Danger Rating System
1994-present
NFDRS applications involve two steps: a historical analysis to set appropriate fire danger breakpoints and an operational system to provide NFDRS fuel moistures and indices in real-time. Historical analyses are performed by combining fire weather and fire occurrence data in Fire Family Plus. Operational indices are produced by the Weather…
New & Improved 7-Day Wildland Fire Outlook
2017-present
RMC is developing a system of statistical weather-based models for forecasting wildland fire potential & fire risk out to 7-10 days on a uniform national grid. The development of this gridded system of predictive equations has been planned to proceed in 4 phases with R&D tasks being executed under a Joint Venture Agreement with Colorado…
Photoload - Visually estimating fuel loading
2005 - present
A new fuel loading sampling method is developed to quickly and accurately estimate loadings for six surface fuel components using downward-looking and oblique photographs depicting sequences of graduated fuel loadings by fuel component.  Estimates of fuel loadings in forest and rangeland ecosystems of the United States are critical for accurately…
Ponderosa pine recovery after fire: A photoguide
2016-present
This project is designed to assist forest managers and field crews in accurately assessing post-fire crown injury and recovery in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). Due to its fire-resistant properties, ponderosa pine crowns may be scorched without killing buds. This allows recovery of the tree after fire, even with very high levels of needle…
Predicting tree growth and beetle susceptibility after fire
2019-present
We are creating tools to inform post-fire decisions that predict post-fire growth rates and mortality levels due to fire alone or fire+beetle for ponderosa pine (PP) and Douglas-fir (DF). The models in the tools will account for tree size, fire injury, site productivity, changes in competition, and beetle pressure. The project will also validate…
Resilient landscapes and fire regimes
2018-Ongoing
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (hereafter: Cohesive Strategy) mandates the restoration and maintenance of landscapes, with the goal that “landscapes across all jurisdictions are resilient to fire-related disturbances in accordance with management objectives.” This policy includes using wildland fire to improve ecological…
RWPE - Restoring Whitebark Pine Ecosystems
1993-present
Evaluating effects of various prescribed burning and silvicultural techniques used for restoring whitebark pine ecosystems (RWPE) The loss of whitebark pine is serious for upper subalpine ecosystems because it is considered a keystone species across most of its range, producing large seeds that are an important food source for more than 110…
RxCadre Project
2012-present
Obtaining Integrated, Quality-assured Fuels, Fire, and Atmospheric Data for Development and Evaluation of Fuels, Fire Behavior, Smoke, and Fire Effects Models The lack of co-located, multi-scale measures of pre-fire fuels, active fire processes, and post-fire effects hinders our ability to tackle fundamental fire science questions. The lack of…
Scenario Planning
2017- present
This research concerns the development and application of spatial scenario planning models to analyze a wide range of forest and restoration management issues on fire frequent landscapes. Visit the National Scenario Planning Platform page to see more complete information on this project. For more information on the Scenario Planning project see…
SERDP RC20-Closing Gaps
2020-present
This project responds to the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP)’s FY 2020 Statement of Need: “DoD WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT RESEARCH FOR IMPROVED MILITARY LAND USE”, for which the overarching objective was “to improve understanding of self-organization of convective structures and near-fire smoke plume development for…
Spring Dip
2012-Present
Both firefighters and fire scientists have observed a period of peak crown fire activity in the Great Lakes area during spring when a dip in foliar moisture content occurs. For decades, the cause and timing of this ‘dip’ have been poorly understood. It is therefore important to understand the drivers of this dip in order to improve wildland…
TCEF Grid - Monitoring wildland fuels
1996 - present
Monitoring wildland fuel characteristics on a 330 m grid across the entire TCEF. Most ecological studies fail to account for ecosystem response and its variability over large space and long time scales. Impacts of many disturbances and management actions, such as climate change, mountain pine beetle outbreaks, timber harvesting, and wildland fire…
Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest
1961-present
For a more indepth overview, see our TCEF Story Map. The Tenderfoot Creek Experimental Forest (TCEF) encompasses the headwaters of Tenderfoot Creek in the Little Belt mountains of central Montana.TCEF is uniquely suited to study lodgepole pine ecology and forest hydrology. Image The Tenderfoot…
Terrestrial lidar scanners and TreeQSM 3D fuels modeling
2020-present
Using destructive samplings methods and a Leica BLK360 terrestrial lidar scanner (TLS), we measured and scanned 20 small diameter trees. We then compare our lab-based results to the 3D quantitative structure model output retrieved from inputting our point clouds into TreeQSM code. Airborne laser scans (ALS; also referred to as airborne LiDAR)…
U.S. Wildfires
2010-present
A Spatial Database of U.S. Wildfires Wildfire occurrence records provide baseline information that is essential for wildfire management and research in the United States. However, there are multiple federal, state, and local entities with wildfire protection and reporting responsibilities in the United States, and no single, unified system of…
Wildfire Hazard Potential
2008-present
Wildfire Hazard Potential* for the United States The wildfire hazard potential (WHP) map is a raster geospatial product produced by the USDA Forest Service, Fire Modeling Institute that can help to inform evaluations of wildfire hazard or prioritization of fuels management needs across very large landscapes.Our specific objective with the WHP map…
Wildfire Risk to Communities
2020-present
Wildfire Risk to Communities is a free, easy-to-use website with interactive maps, charts, and resources to help communities understand, explore, and reduce wildfire risk. The website was created by the USDA Forest Service under the direction of Congress and is designed to be a starting point to help community leaders, such as elected officials,…