Fire Ecology, Management, and Policy in the Western US: Challenges But With Great Possibilities

Thursday, February 18, 2016
3:30 pm
La Sells Stewart Center, C&E Hall

Speaker:  Scott Stephens, Professor of Forest Science, UC Berkeley

Many forests have been altered by 100 years of fire suppression and past harvesting which has increased their hazards and susceptibility to fires with intensities and severities outside of desired ranges. Changing climates have intensified these problems but all is not lost. When discussing current fire impacts it is critical to anchor them to specific fire regimes. Crown-fire-adapted ecosystems are likely at higher risk to climate changed influenced fire regimes as compared with other ecosystems once subject to frequent less severe fires. We know how to restore frequent fire adapted forests, with generally positive or neutral ecological effects. Today’s challenge is to move more quickly to restore large areas of these ecosystems. The next 2-3 decades are absolutely critical in terms of restoration. How new fire policy initiatives are created and debated is another important topic.

Stephens is interested in the interactions of wildland fire and ecosystems. This includes how prehistoric fires once interacted with ecosystems, how current wildland fires are affecting ecosystems, and how future fires and management may change this interaction. I am also interested in wildland fire and forest policy and how it can be improved to meet the challenges of the next decades, including climate change impacts. How forest resilience and mountain hydrology interact is a new area of research.