Contact Information

SFFP
Forestry Sciences Laboratory
3041 Cornwallis Road
RTP, NC 27709
(919) 549-4011

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Fire


Question

How will fire behavior and fire risk change over time and what are the likely effects on communities and people?

Issues

  • Describe the current and potential fire behavior/fire risk in the South and discuss the factors contributing to potential changes.
  • Discuss the likely future of prescribed burning in the South, factors affecting this practice, and alternatives to its use as a management tool.
  • How will restricted or excluded prescribed fire affect fire-adapted and fire-dependent forest communities and other dependent species, and where will these effects be concentrated?
  • Describe the economic consequences of reduced prescribed burning, including potential property and structural damage and loss, timber devaluation, liability, and emergency rehabilitation and reforestation costs.
  • Compare wildfire and prescribed burning in the context of the carbon cycle, air pollution, forest productivity and forest health.

Subregional Issues

  • Species losses due to hotter fires (App-Cumb)
  • Limitations on use of prescribed fire on fire-dependent ecosystems. (Piedmont)
  • Wildfire risk with establishment and development of afforestation sites (MAV)
  • Changing patterns of vegetation under fire exclusion in shrublands and grasslands (Mid South)

Meta-Issue Managers

John Stanturf and Scott Goodrick, Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service

Methods of Analysis

Describe the current and potential fire behavior/fire risk in the South and discuss the factors contributing to potential changes.
We will use the Southern Fire Risk Assessment System (SFRAS) that was used to produce the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment (SWRA) to evaluate current fire risk by sub-region and evaluate wildfire risk under future climate scenarios for areas of changing land use and population growth. Five sets of model runs of SFRAS will produce maps of the Wildland Fire Susceptibility Index for (1) baseline of current land cover, climate and fire occurrence; (2) changed land cover, current climate and fire occurrence; (3) changed climate, current land cover and fire occurrence; (4) changed land cover and fire occurrence, current climate; and (5) changed climate, land cover, and fire occurrence. Within each change scenario, we will display results at decadal intervals for 50 years.

Discuss the likely future of prescribed burning in the South, factors affecting this practice, and alternatives to its use as a management tool.
We will develop an analysis of the current and potential policy and regulatory constraints on the use of prescribed burning based on current research and discussions with collaborators and examine alternatives based on reviews conducted for JFSP, available literature, and on-going research. We will discuss the implications of these constraints in terms of forest productivity, fire-dependent species, and fire-sensitive species.

How will restricted or excluded prescribed fire affect fire-adapted and fire-dependent forest communities and other dependent species, and where will these effects be concentrated?
We will overlay a forest cover type map imputed from FIA with historic fire occurrences map to identify where conditions are favorable for fire adapted communities. We will correlate this with projected land use changes that could restrict or exclude prescribed fire. This spatial analysis will inform an analysis of effects based on literature.

Describe the economic consequences of reduced prescribed burning, including potential property and structural damage and loss, timber devaluation, liability, and emergency rehabilitation and reforestation costs.
The analysis above of changing wildfire risk under land use/population change scenarios will be further developed using the outcome risk (values at risk) component of SWRA. The outputs from SWRA will be analyzed and compared to literature values.

Compare wildfire and prescribed burning in the context of the carbon cycle, air pollution, forest productivity and forest health.
We will use outputs from the SWRA analysis (above), literature values and current research to develop scenarios for comparing severe wildfire versus frequent prescribed burning for pine forests of the Coastal Plain and how changing climate could affect fire behavior and fire occurrence.

Data and Information Sources

  • Southern Group of State Foresters Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment (SWRA)
  • NatureServe database of TES species, data layer of fire-dependant communities from J. Coulston, biodiversity/wildlife data from Biodiversity/Wildlife Meta Issue manager
  • FIA database of forest cover types
  • Southern Fire Encyclopedia
  • IPCC climate change scenarios, consistent with those used by the Climate Change Meta Issue manager
  • Landuse/landcover change and forest conditions forecasts from the Forecast and Analysis Team
  • Relationships between demographics and arson fires from the Values and Economics RWU
  • Previous studies

Links to other parts of the Southern Forest Futures Project

  • Forecasting and Analysis Team Land (use/land cover change forecasts)
  • Climate Change Team (IPCC Climate Models need to be consistent)
  • Invasives Team (data on cogongrass biomass and occurrence)

Products

In addition to the narrative final report, we will prepare review/synthesis/journal papers on smoke from wildland fire as an environmental hazard; evaluation of the SFRAS and recommendations for improvements; use of the Keetch-Byram Drought Index to forecast climate change effects on potential for wildland fire under the IPCC climate scenarios; descriptions of current fire risk by sub-region with accompanying GIS layers on CD-ROM

Potential cooperators

  • Staff of the Center for Forest Disturbance Science
  • Staff of the Economics and Evaluation Research Work Unit (Fire Economics Team)
  • Southern Group of State Foresters
  • Others TBD

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Last Modified: 04/03/2009