Experts advocate fire management to conserve seasonally dry forests

By University of New Mexico

Researchers suggest two primary management strategies: burning and restoration thinning.
Credit: Matthew Hurteau

Fire has been a central component in California’s natural and human history for millennia. Native Americans’ use of cultural burns in landscape management, in addition to lightning-ignited fires that burned unhindered, impacted most of the state’s ecosystems.

However, in the late 1800s, California’s landscape underwent an era of Euro-American fire exclusion and suppression. As the United States began suppressing fire across western ecosystems, forests became increasingly dense with fuel which easily ignites in warm weather conditions.

In a new study, Fire and climate change: conserving seasonally dry forests is still possible, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, University of California-Berkeley (UC-Berkeley) Environmental Science, Policy, and Management professor Scott Stephens and co-authors including University of New Mexico Department of Biology assistant professor Matthew Hurteau, investigate the role which fire and restoration thinning could play in restoring California’s forests. Stephens argues that allowing forests to burn does not necessarily conflict with the government’s environmental objectives to promote carbon storage and water availability. In the long-term, fire and restoration thinning can help forests continue to provide natural services while building ecosystem resilience to climate change.

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Read the study in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment: