OOS 37 -
Mixed Severity Fire Regime As a Guiding Concept for Forest Management: Variability In Space and Time, Restoration, and Future Challenges
Thursday, August 9, 2012: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
A107, Oregon Convention Center
R. Travis Belote, The Wilderness Society
C. Alina Cansler, University of Washington; and
Michele Crist, The Wilderness Society
Gregory H. Aplet, The Wilderness Society
Understanding the role fire historically played in maintaining local and landscape composition and biodiversity remains an active research front. In many forest types, fire suppression and land use have altered the structure and composition of forests, thus decreasing ecological resilience to future disturbances. In response to altered conditions, various management strategies have been used to restore forest structure, biological diversity, and the ecological role of fire to landscapes, including mechanical fuel-reduction treatments, prescribed fire, and wildfire use.
Fire regimes of forests that historically burned with frequent, low-severity fires are widely studied and provide a useful guide for ecological restoration. In contrast, setting goals for ecosystem management and restoration targets in mixed-severity fire regimes, where the frequency, severity, and effects of fires historically varied in time and space has proven more difficult. Mixed severity fire regimes historically maintained landscape heterogeneity in fuels and ecological conditions, which limited fire spread and severity and maintained diverse species assemblages. Restoring ecosystems historically characterized by mixed severity fire regimes presents management challenges because reference conditions are temporally and spatially variable making it challenging to clearly define links between management targets and historical conditions. Variability in forest conditions and fire severity in space and time make active treatments in forests of mixed severity fire regimes controversial where restoration targets of forest conditions may be based on limited historical evidence and where the relationships between spatially-complicated patterns and processes are not fully understood.
Climate change presents additional challenges to restoration in forests characterized by mixed severity fire regimes. Climate change may alter the behavior, extent, and severity of fires in the future making it even more important to understand the relationship between historical fire regimes, forest restoration, and future disturbance. In this session we will highlight current work linking basic research on fire regimes and the application of these concepts to forest management and restoration. We will bring together researchers from various perspectives and disciplines to synthesize current understanding including a conceptual and empirical overview of forests characterized by mixed severity fire regimes and the challenges and uncertainty associated with their restoration. Speakers will address basic ecological questions associated with controls of landscape patterns of fire severity and their ecological consequences, how to apply landscape patterns to restoration planning, challenges of historical reconstruction, as well as how new remote sensing methods can be used to understand pattern-process relationships.