Salience & Wildfire

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Andrew Plantinga, University of California, Santa Barbara
Naomi Tague, University of California, Santa Barbara

The current multi-year drought in the western U.S. highlights the increasing challenges posed by wildfires. While science in the past decades has substantially improved our understanding of wildfire as an integral part of ecosystems, questions remain about how fire, human actions, climate, and ecosystem responses co-evolve. As more people are exposed to fires and fire risk, these linkages between human actions to mitigate fire risk and the environmental consequences of fire increase. We hope to develop a new approach to examine the complex linkage among fire management actions such as fuels treatments, fire risk, and post-fire effects, including risks to water resources and other ecosystem services. We use salience theory, which predicts that management actions will be more responsive to salient wildfire events, to guide data-driven analysis of previous public fire management decisions. We then link these results to a spatial model of ecosystem dynamics, hydrology, and fire risk. We employ state-of-the-art software engineering techniques to develop and evaluate this model by integrating extensive biophysical, climate, and management datasets. We also take advantage of new approaches for presenting results of complex modeling to stakeholders, including resource managers and the public. We work closely with COMPASS, an organization that focuses on science communication, and a visual artist to help translate model results into intuitive graphics of multi-directional relationships that underlie fire risk. Results of this work will improve our understanding of wildfire risk and more importantly present information that can help managers more effectively target limited management resources.

Media Coverage:

SESYNC Research-in-Action Series:

Computer models aren’t playing with fire (Science Node)

Scientific Simulations in Stream and Ecosystem Synergies (People Behind the Science Podcast)

Dying California forests offer a glimpse into climate change (CBC News)

Sarah Anderson, University of California, Santa Barbara
Ryan Bart, University of California, Santa Barbara
Jude Bayham, Yale University
Patricia Champ, U.S. Forest Service
Janet Choate, University of California, Santa Barbara
Heather Hodges, University of California, Santa Barbara
Matthew Hurteau, University of New Mexico
Maureen Kennedy, University of Washington
Shawn McCoy, University of Pittsburgh
Brian Miles, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Max Moritz, University of California, Berkeley
Antoine Randolph, City University of New York
Ethan Turpin, University of California, Santa Barbara
Randall Walsh, University of Pittsburgh
Matthew Wibbenmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara
William Burke, University of California, Santa Barbara
Maureen Kennedy, University of Washington, Tacoma
Wendy Meiring, University of California, Santa Barbara
Share: Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Linked Icon