Research showcases Indigenous stewardship’s role in forest ecosystem resilience

by Steve Lundeberg, Oregon State University
April 22, 2024

Oregon State University researchers have teamed with the Karuk Tribe to create a novel computer simulation model that showcases Indigenous fire stewardship’s role in forest ecosystem health.

Western scientists and land managers have become increasingly cognizant of cultural burning but its extent and purpose are generally absent from fire modeling research, said Skye Greenler, who led the partnership when she was a graduate research fellow in the OSU College of Forestry.

“We developed this project in collaboration with the Karuk Tribe to explore the impact of cultural burning at a landscape scale in a completely new way,” she said. “The information that went into this model is not new at all – it’s been held by Karuk Tribal members for millennia – but we developed new methods to bring the knowledge together and display it in a way that showcases the extent of Indigenous cultural stewardship across this landscape.”

Greenler and collaborators including Chris Dunn and John Bailey of Oregon State say that understanding the interactions among humans, fire processes and pathways towards coexistence with wildfire has become increasingly urgent as the social, ecological and economic impacts of fire have intensified in recent years.

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