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Extreme Fires Portal: Biophysical and Social Research

In recent years wildland fires have become more widespread with significant ecological, social, and economic impacts. Fewer than 5% of all fires account for the majority of area burned and the costs of fire suppression. We propose interdisciplinary research to quantifying the biogeoscientific (biophysical, biogeochemical, and biogeographical) and societal impacts of extreme wildland fires at community and regional scales in the US northern Rockies. The complex terrain in the northern Rockies offers steep environmental and social gradients to understand how and why landscapes change in response to extreme disturbances, as well as the social and environmental implications of those changes. The social gradient includes wildland interface community experience, while the environmental gradient covers aridlands, such as shrublands and grasslands, to mesic mixed conifer forests and subalpine ecosystems. Fires in these systems result in varying public and policy maker experiences and land management decisions in forested and rangeland ecosystems. 

The goals of this research include:

  1. Characterize the nature, magnitude, and distinguishing attributes of extreme wildland fire events;
  2. Assess the full impact of the extreme wildland fire events (near-term and long-term) on both natural and human systems;
  3. Characterize biophysical and social recovery processes and trajectories from selected extreme fire events; and
  4. Understand how human actions to mitigate and/or recover from the impacts of past extreme wildland fire events have succeeded or failed, including the role that adaptive capacity and stakeholder knowledge play in effectively responding to fires.

The entire proposal for project work can be viewed here (pdf).

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