Balancing fire risk with biodiversity conservation
Wildfires are a natural part of California ecosystems and play an important role in maintaining ecological structure and function. However, different fire regimes in the state have been altered due to past management practices, climate change, invasive species, and population growth and urban expansion. Given the potential for conflicts between fire management and conserving biodiversity and ecological functioning, solutions are needed to balance ecosystem health with human welfare and community safety.
CBI is partnering with Dr. Jon Keeley (USGS) and an international team of landscape ecologists, biologists, geographers and economists to study the factors that control wildfire activity in southern California, which experiences the largest number of housing losses to wildfire in the U.S. This work focuses on the role of different ignition sources, climate patterns, vegetation change, and housing location and arrangement in altering fire patterns and contributing to housing loss at the wildland-urban interface. Other topics of research include the effectiveness and effects of fuel treatments and prescribed fire in controlling large fire behavior; the role of homeowner practices, such as minimizing vegetation around homes and upgrading building construction materials to prevent house loss; and the relative importance of land planning decisions that could best minimize housing loss while preventing negative impacts to biodiversity.
While the research takes place primarily in southern California, the findings are applicable to other fire-prone non-forested ecosystems such as the Great Basin and the other Mediterranean-climate ecosystems across the world.
The results of this research are shared with management agencies like the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, in addition to local and state planners and policy makers, to identify the best strategies to increase community safety while minimizing effects on natural ecosystems.
nflicts between fire management and biodiversity conservation