Managed fires

Fire is a natural ecosystem process. Many land managers in the southeastern U.S. understand that prescribed burning as an essential tool for restoring and maintaining biodiversity in fire-adapted forests and grasslands. The role of wildfire, however, is less widely accepted as a means to maintain healthy, resilient ecosystems. The term wildfire implies a fire that…  More 

Focus on Joseph O’Brien

This is a new type of article focusing on the people behind the science. These articles will profile SRS employees – from different job series and locations – whose work fulfills and supports the Station’s mission. “I am intrigued by the connection between fire and its role in maintaining biodiversity,” says Joseph O’Brien, a research…  More 

Without fire, trees become more susceptible to it

Historically, fires frequently burned Southern Appalachian forests. Many tree species evolved traits that aided survival in this fire environment. However, with the exclusion of fire from these forests for many decades, new research suggests traits that once made trees resistant to fire may now make them more susceptible to it. USDA Forest Service scientists Melanie…  More 

Prescribed fire science: Why it’s needed now more than ever

Much of what is known about planned fire comes from a burn manager’s memory. “It takes years to get that kind of experience,” says Joseph O’Brien, fire research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service. “If things are changing, like invasive species or climate, or if you’re a new manager, you need help.” O’Brien, writing in…  More 

New book on fire ecology and management across the U.S.

A comprehensive book on fire ecology and management in U.S. forests is now available. More than 70 experts wrote the book together, including researchers, land managers, and other experts from the USDA Forest Service. Other authors represented universities, non-governmental organizations and state and federal agencies. Forest Service scientist Katie Greenberg and Western Carolina University professor…  More 

Wildfire During a Drought? It Can Still Benefit Forests

In the summer of 2011, lightning struck a ridge near High Peak Mountain, on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas. The High Peak Wildfire began. “It’s a remote and rugged area, and we were in the middle of a severe drought,” says Virginia McDaniel, a USDA Forest Service forestry technician, who led a study on…  More 

Life as a Radio Operator in the Communications Unit

“Communications, Taskforce Leader Peterson,” blurts the radio. “Communications, go ahead Taskforce Leader Peterson,” I say. “I would like to report a vehicle rollover on Highway 73. Please clear the airway for emergency traffic only.” The Communications Unit bursts into action. Someone alerts critical members of Type 1 Incident Command Team that we have an Incident…  More 

Insights from the 2016 Southern Appalachian Wildfires

Depending on their timing and location, fires can destroy or restore, with little gray area in between. In the early fall of 2016, one specific fire event in Southern Appalachia was unlike any other in recent decades, leaving behind unprecedented devastation once the fire had ceased. From this disastrous fire season comes a recent report…  More 

Firesetting Arrests Reduce Future Intentional Fires

New research by the USDA Forest Service explores how law enforcement efforts might impact future incidents of arson. “We found very little documented research on whether arrests, as a distinct measure of law enforcement efforts, are linked to reductions in the occurrence of intentional fires or whether such efforts have broader impacts across space and…  More 

Weather Conditions Inform Timing of Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fires generate smoke, which can harm human health – especially in areas where humans and forests are close together. “Weather conditions are critical for prescribed fire, especially the effects of wind and humidity on smoke plume formation,” says Yongqiang Liu, USDA Forest Service research meteorologist. Liu is the lead author of a modeling study…  More