Prescribed fire science: the case for a refined research agenda
The realm of wildland fire science encompasses both wild and prescribed fires. Most of the research in the broader field has focused on wildfires, however, despite the prevalence of prescribed fires and demonstrated need for science to guide its application. We argue that prescribed fire science requires a fundamentally different approach to connecting related disciplines of physical, natural, and social sciences. We also posit that research aimed at questions relevant to prescribed fire will improve overall wildland fire science and stimulate the development of useful knowledge about managed wildfires. Because prescribed fires are increasingly promoted and applied for wildfire management and are intentionally ignited to meet policy and land manager objectives, a broader research agenda incorporating the unique features of prescribed fire is needed. We highlight the primary differences between prescribed fire science and wildfire science in the study of fuels, fire behavior, fire weather, fire effects, and fire social science. Wildfires managed for resource benefits (“managed wildfires”) offer a bridge for linking these science frameworks. A recognition of the unique science needs related to prescribed fire will be key to addressing the global challenge of managing wildland fire for long-term sustainability of natural resources.