Fire Ecology

Defending Bedrock Environmental Laws and Policies

Fire is a natural force that has shaped the biodiversity of dry forests across the West for millennia. Fire is only catastrophic when it destroys homes or results in loss of life. Unfortunately, fire has been used as an excuse for opening up millions of acres of public lands to unabated logging based on the false premise that logging can prevent future fires and is needed to “restore” forests that have burned. We have chosen to work on fire as a key- stone ecological process because there is much public concern about whether it will increase during a warming climate and whether it is a significant source of CO2 emissions.

For over a decade, Geos Institute has been playing a leadership role in bringing cutting-edge science on the ecological importance of fire featured in top tier science journals, news media reports, and in efforts by partners to defend landmark environmental laws and policies. We continue to develop scientifically sound alternatives that advocate for let-burn policies under safe conditions in the backcountry and fuels reduction near homes and in flammable tree plantations.

Ways to Co-exist with Large Fires and Their Ecosystem Benefits

fire report coexisting with large firesThis fire primer is meant for decision makers concerned about forest fires in the American West. Using best science, we address seven fundamental questions related to the ecological importance of large fires and their appropriate management on public lands. Specifically, we examine: (1) what works best for reducing fire risks to homes and firefighters; (2) are large wildland fires an ecological catastrophe as claimed; (3) are fires increasing from historical levels; (4) does forest thinning reduce fire intensity or lower large fire occurrence; (5) how does post-fire logging affect forest rejuvenation and reburn intensity; (6) do insect outbreaks increase fire occurrence or intensity; and (7) how is climate change affecting fire behavior in the West?

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The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature's Phoenix

fire natures phoenix bookcoverThe Ecological Importance of High-Severity Fires, presents information on the current paradigm shift in the way people think about wildfire and ecosystems.

While much of the current forest management in fire-adapted ecosystems, especially forests, is focused on fire prevention and suppression, little has been reported on the ecological role of fire, and nothing has been presented on the importance of high-severity fire with regards to the maintenance of native biodiversity and fire-dependent ecosystems and species.

This text fills that void, providing a comprehensive reference for documenting and synthesizing fire's ecological role.

  • Offers the first reference written on mixed- and high-severity fires and their relevance for biodiversity
  • Contains a broad synthesis of the ecology of mixed- and high-severity fires covering such topics as vegetation, birds, mammals, insects, aquatics, and management actions
  • Explores the conservation vs. public controversy issues around megafires in a rapidly warming world

Purchase the book from Amazon

Book Reviews of Nature's Phoenix:

Fireside Chat

fire fireside chat thumbIn the "Fireside Chat" presentation (click on link below), we view post-fire landscapes through an ecological lens that allows us to see the ecosystem benefits and unique biodiversity that follows wildfires.

An ecological perspective is needed because the public most often hears that fire (especially severe ones) is bad for forests. Indeed, many forests, from low- elevation ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir to upper elevation and high latitude subalpine and boreal, depend on a significant amount of severe fire. 

Fireside Chat was prepared for the media, managers, conservation groups, and decision makers using the Prezi presentation software and storytelling tool.

Click here to start the presentation.  You may enlarge the presentation to full screen and use the right/left arrows or slide bar  to navigate the zoomable canvas. Once finished, you may also use the pan/zoom to revisit sections.

In addition, you can click here to see a slide show of salvage logging on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, following the Biscuit Fire in southwest Oregon.  And click here to see a photo gallery of post-fire logging and roading on industrial, private lands near Glendale, Oregon.

Ecosystem Benefits of Wildfire vs. Post-Fire Logging Impacts

fire factsheet thumbMost wildfires in montane (mountainous) forests and shrublands of the western United States are ecologically beneficial and needed for the proper function and maintenance of fire-dependent biota. Unfortunately, many decision-makers view fire as “catastrophic” and believe it to be increasing beyond historical bounds. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a deficit of wildfire acresin most western montane forests as compared to historical times due primarily to fire suppression. Although historical data using comparable tracking metrics are lacking on a subset of the very large fires (“mega-fires”), there has been no significant upward trend in these fires detected in the past 15 years, although longer timelines are needed for meaningful conclusions.

Read the entire fact sheet.

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