An Integrated Model for Identifying Linkages Between the Management of Fuel Treatments, Fire and Ecosystem Services
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Vegetation fuel treatments (e.g. thinning, prescribed burning) are a frequent tool for managing fire-prone landscapes. However, predicting how fuel treatments may affect future wildfire risk and associated ecosystem services, such as forest water availability and streamflow, remains a challenge. This challenge is in part due to the large range of conditions under which fuel treatments may be implemented, as response is likely to vary with species type, rates of vegetation regrowth, meteorological conditions and physiographic properties of the treated site. It is also due to insufficient understanding of how social factors such as political pressure, public demands and economic constraints affect fuel management decisions. To examine the feedbacks between ecological and social dimensions of fuel treatments, we present an integrated model that links a biophysical model that simulates vegetation and hydrology (RHESSys), a fire spread model (WMFire) and an empirical fuel treatment model that accounts for agency decision-making. We use this model to investigate how management decisions affect landscape fuel loads, which in turn affect fire severity and ecosystem services, which feedback to management decisions on fuel treatments. We hypothesize that this latter effect will be driven by salience theory, which predicts that fuel treatments are more likely to occur following major wildfire events. The integrated model provides a flexible framework for answering novel questions about fuel treatments that span social and ecological domains, areas that have previously been treated separately.