Scientists and Researchers in the West Join Forces to Help Manage Forest Amidst Worsening Wildfires

In recent months, a team of scientists and researchers from government laboratories, universities and conservation organizations and in the West, joined forces. The purpose of which is to collaborate in synthesizing the multitude of scientific literature that presents clear and strong evidences about climate change, wildfire occurrences and related forest management actions being carried out on seasonally dry forests.

The ultimate goal is to provide land managers and forest administrators across the West, a unified resource summarizing the best-available compilation of science-based information to use, in making management decisions over their designated landscapes. The results of the collaboration were published in the Aug. 2 publication of the Ecological Applications Journal .

The massive wildfires and drought that are now taking place in the western part of the North American forests, have become the prevailing agents of climate change. While policy makers and land managers acknowledge that the number, size and severity of forest fires have been rapidly growing as results of climate change, they are lagging behind in terms of agreement and funding to support their initiatives for climate and wildfire adaptation.

This brought to light the urgent need to institute changes that would see to the application of credible ecological and scientific approaches. That way, forest and fire management can be carried out at a faster pace and in scales matching the scope of the geographic environmental problem.


The Synthesized Scientific Data Enabled Scientists to Come Up with Recommendations for Adaptive Management

The collaborating scientists largely agree that one way of making the forests and their surrounding communities resilient to climate change and the resulting wildfires, is to reduce the presence of fuels. As it is, the policies and actions being implemented and observed have not kept pace with the changes that have transpired. Even as forest fires have become more frequent and destructive, actions taken have been limited to fire suppressions.

Susan Prichard co-lead author and a research scientist in environmental and forest science at the University of Washington, said they advocate adaptive management. Mainly because the science behind it justifies a range of time-tested and research-based management approaches in enabling forest adaptations toward the occurring climate change and wildfires.
Some of the proven approaches gathered from the synthesized science literature on climate change and wildfire, include the following:

1.  Thinning of dense forests around fire-excluded areas like the rain forests in the Pacific Northwest and similar other wet forests.

2.  Prescriptive burning;

3.  Ground fuel reductions;

4.  Permitting wildfires to burn in backcountry areas but subject to favorable weather and fuel conditions;

5.  Reviving and revitalizing Indigenous practices in fire stewardship.

The authors came up with these adaptive management advocacies after studying and reviewing more than a thousand published papers, which they combined into a coherent whole. The synthesized scientific resource included more than a century of information gathered from research and observations, covering an extensive range of forests in western North America.