Refining fire behavior modeling

May 22, 2012

Research by USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station biometrician Bernie Parresol takes center stage in a special issue of the journal Forest Ecology and Management due out in June. Parresol is lead author of two of the five articles—and co-author of two more—in an issue that focuses on methods that incorporate fine-scale data into the tools Southeastern forest managers use to assess wildfire potential and plan mitigation treatments.

Most behavior analyses rely on sparse plot inventories and data from satellites, and often do not address the complexity found at the ground level where managers operate. Parresol and fellow researchers demonstrated a statistical approach that can incorporate hundreds to thousands of fuel observations into models that managers can easily use to prioritize areas to treat to reduce the wildfire hazard.

Fire is an important part of forest ecosystems in the southeastern United States, especially in the Coastal Plain. European settlers cleared most of the native longleaf pine forests of the region; industry later planted many of the same acres in loblolly pine plantations. Meanwhile, fire suppression policies broke the cycle of frequent low-intensity fires in the remaining natural forests, causing the buildup of fuels that leads to wildfires.

Over the last decades, southeastern land managers added prescribed fire to other forest treatments to reduce wildland fires, promote forest restoration, and improve wildlife habitat. Because of budget constraints and public concerns about fire and smoke, managers need to prioritize the areas where they will use prescribed fire. To do this, they use wildfire hazard assessments such as LANDFIRE and the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment (SWRA), both of which use satellite images and other supporting data to represent fuels across a landscape. Although these tools work well enough at the state and regional levels, they don't offer enough detail to land managers trying to decide which of their hundreds or thousands of acres should be burned first.

The special issue of focuses on a study conducted on the 200,000-acre Savannah River Site as representative of an actively managed landscape in the Southeast. Researchers used studies on the site to assess wildland fuels, potential fire behavior and treatments to reduce fire hazard. In his first article, Parresol and fellow researchers develop equations to describe fuel loads for both dead and alive materials on the site based on vegetation type, stand age, recent fire history and other aspects. These equations were then used to create custom landscape models based on the actual data from the site, then compared with results from LANDFIRE and SWRA to assess the effectiveness of those tools.

"Taken together, the research reported in these articles shows that fine scale measurements repeated over time can be put into a manageable framework and reduced to create dynamic models useful to managers," says Parresol. "They can also be used to help address scientific questions and to evaluate the effect of management conditions."

Explore further: Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

More information: Access the special issue of Forest Ecology and Management: www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03781127/273

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Landscape study may offer solutions for fire managers

Jul 24, 2008

A fire is currently burning through a study area where projections were made about fire behavior about 2 years ago. Managers used data and analysis from the Gotchen Late-Successional Reserve (LSR) study in the planning, analysis, ...

Recommended for you

Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

16 hours ago

New Zealand's pastoral landscapes are some of the loveliest in the world, but they also contain a hidden threat. Many of the country's pasture soils have become enriched in cadmium. Grasses take up this toxic heavy metal, ...

Oil drilling possible 'trigger' for deadly Italy quakes

20 hours ago

Italy's Emilia-Romagna region on Tuesday suspended new drilling as it published a report that warned that hydrocarbon exploitation may have acted as a "trigger" in twin earthquakes that killed 26 people in ...

Snow is largely a no-show for Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

20 hours ago

On March 1, 65 mushers and their teams of dogs left Anchorage, Alaska, on a quest to win the Iditarod—a race covering 1,000 miles of mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, tundra and coastline. According ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

21 hours ago

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Study shows less snowpack will harm ecosystem

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study by CAS Professor of Biology Pamela Templer shows that milder winters can have a negative impact both on trees and on the water quality of nearby aquatic ecosystems, far into the warm growing season.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.