Dennison contributes to two white papers on wildfire science

utah wildfire

Geography faculty member Philip Dennison recently contributed to two white papers addressing wildfire science issues. The National Academies recently began their Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space, which evaluates priorities for NASA missions and research over the next decade. Dr. Dennison led a white paper submitted to the Decadal Survey addressing key questions in fire science, titled Burning Questions: Critical Needs for Remote Sensing of Fire Impacts on Ecosystems. Dennison and twelve co-authors describe the following science questions as critical, and document how remote sensing technologies can be used to advance our understanding of wildfire impacts on ecosystems and on the Earth system:

  • What are the total global carbon emissions from fires, accounting for spatial variability in pre-fire fuel conditions and fire severity, and including emissions from agricultural and understory forest fires?
  • How do fuel type, fuel condition, fuel moisture, and soil moisture influence fire occurrence, behavior, and severity?
  • How do fire severity and intensity influence vegetation composition and carbon sequestration during post-fire recovery?
  • How does fire alter ecosystem services of clean air and water, habitat, and biodiversity, and which regions are most vulnerable to these changes?
  • How can we adaptively manage ecosystems to increase ecosystem resilience and balance multiple ecosystem services?

Dr. Dennison also contributed to a new white paper titled Insights from Wildfire Science: A Resource for Fire Policy Discussions that summarizes insights gained from fire research, with the hopes of informing fire policy. The short summary includes the following findings:

  • Fire size and frequency will increase under a warming climate
  • Fuel reductions on federal lands will do little to reduce acreage burned and homes lost
  • High severity fires often have ecological benefits
  • Managing more fires to burn safely can reduce risk and increase ecological benefit