Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Past Fire Regime Is Key To Managing Chaparral Fires In Southern California

Date:
December 3, 2001
Source:
United States Geological Survey
Summary:
Understanding the natural role of fire in chaparral ecosystems is necessary to effectively manage fires in southern California’s shrublands, where large, high-intensity fires sweep the landscape each year, threatening lives and homes. Researchers have wondered if the natural fire regime in chaparral ecosystems has been lost because of overly effective fire suppression, and if fire managers can restore the natural fire regime with widespread prescription burning and eliminate the hazard of catastrophic fires.

Understanding the natural role of fire in chaparral ecosystems is necessary to effectively manage fires in southern California’s shrublands, where large, high-intensity fires sweep the landscape each year, threatening lives and homes. Researchers have wondered if the natural fire regime in chaparral ecosystems has been lost because of overly effective fire suppression, and if fire managers can restore the natural fire regime with widespread prescription burning and eliminate the hazard of catastrophic fires.

Related Articles


USGS studies argue no to these speculations -- that there is no evidence that past fire management policies have created the contemporary chaparral fire regime dominated by massive Santa Ana wind-driven fires.

Writing in the December issue of Conservation Biology, USGS scientist Dr. Jon Keeley and co-author C. J. Fotheringham, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, refuted earlier studies that suggested the natural chaparral fire regime was one of frequent small fires that formed a landscape patchwork as a barrier to large, catastrophic crown fires. They questioned the earlier claim that destructive wildfires in southern California shrublands are a result of unnaturally high fuel accumulation from past efforts to suppress fires, and they presented arguments suggesting that landscape-scale prescription burning is not an effective means of preventing such fires. They added that limited and strategically placed prescription burns are more cost effective.

“One of the most important roles for fire managers of these ecosystems may be educating land planners on the limitations of reducing fire hazards in these natural crown-fire ecosystems,” said Keeley, a research ecologist with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center at Sequoia-Kings Canyon Field Station in Three Rivers, Calif.

Keeley and Fotheringham examined a model that compared contemporary burning patterns in southern California, where fire suppression has been practiced, with patterns in northern Baja California, Mexico, without effective fire suppression. After reviewing the evidence, they concluded that the degree to which fire regimes vary between these two regions was debatable and that any differences that existed could not be conclusively attributed to differences in fire suppression.

“Indeed, historical fire records show clearly that fire suppression has not even come close to excluding fire in these chaparral ecosystems, as is the case in many Western U.S. coniferous forests,” said Keeley. “Increased expenditures on fire suppression, and increased loss of property and lives, are the result of human demographic patterns that place increasing demand on fire suppression forces.”

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to: describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by United States Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

United States Geological Survey. "Past Fire Regime Is Key To Managing Chaparral Fires In Southern California." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011203060809.htm>.
United States Geological Survey. (2001, December 3). Past Fire Regime Is Key To Managing Chaparral Fires In Southern California. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011203060809.htm
United States Geological Survey. "Past Fire Regime Is Key To Managing Chaparral Fires In Southern California." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/12/011203060809.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Extinct' Bird Isn't Extinct At All, Scientists Find

'Extinct' Bird Isn't Extinct At All, Scientists Find

Buzz60 (Mar. 6, 2015) — Scientists rediscover a bird thought to be extinct, so we may be able to cross it off the "Gone For Good" list. Sean Dowling (@seandowlingtv) has more details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Toxic Truth Goes Viral

China's Toxic Truth Goes Viral

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 6, 2015) — Pollution in China has gone viral with a documentary highlighting the problems caused by major industries. But awareness may not be enough to clean up dirty producers. Jane Lanhee Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

AP (Mar. 6, 2015) — A shortage of snow has forced Alaska&apos;s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to move 300 miles north to Fairbanks. The ceremonial start through downtown Anchorage will take place this weekend, using snow stockpiled earlier this winter. (March 6) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Were El Niño Predictions So Far Off Base?

Why Were El Niño Predictions So Far Off Base?

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) — Weather agencies say an El Niño event is officially underway, but they called for it months ago and warned it would be way stronger than it is. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins