Prescribed burns and managed wildfires provide many benefits or ecosystem services that people rely on to improve fire protection in California forests through mechanical reduction.
In an article published in Restoration Ecology, researchers from UC Merced, UCNR and UC Irvine report that stakeholders perceive fire protection as central to forest restoration, with many other ecosystem services being weighed against the weight of wildfires. Researcher Max Erickson, lead author of the paper, said: “Forest restoration involves many fuels reduction activities that are thought to benefit fire protection, some of which benefit other ecosystem services such as air quality, wildlife habitat, soil fertility and water supply.”
The research shows that actions such as forest mechanical thinning aimed at reducing fuels not only have a direct effect on reducing the severity of wildfires, but also have benefits such as improving fire protection, such as water supply and agricultural hydroelectricity. and communities within the state or by storing carbon and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fires into the atmosphere. Therefore, fire management is central to human safety.
Across the western United States, researchers are addressing the major challenge of shifting forest management from the historical goal of maximizing natural resource extraction (eg, timber production) to multiple benefits or ecosystem services.
The study involved a series of virtual workshops with natural resource professionals, including forest managers, to understand the impact of management measures on ecosystem services and interactions between different services. Eleven ecosystem services and nine currently used management measures are considered.
“Understanding the real and perceived benefits of restoring degraded forests is critical to selecting management actions, public support, policy initiatives and investments,” added Safiq Khan, co-author of Water and Watershed Science and UCANR Cooperative Extension Specialist. Users, ie, monetization of ecosystem services.
“Reducing fuel loads is being recognized as an effective way to transition our forests in the western United States from a destructive to a beneficial wildfire regime,” said UC Merced professor and co-author Roger Bals.
Bales added, “Our research supports the understanding that California’s wildfire-prone forests must be primarily and urgently restored to conditions that better adjust wildfire severity and thus provide greater fire protection and other ecosystem-service benefits. Low-severity wildfires are natural and It is a natural, important part of these ecosystems.
An important contribution of this study is the scope of both ecosystem-service benefits and management measures. “Given the complexity of forest ecosystems in the western United States, this study recognizes the need to increase forest resilience, given the investments required and management constraints,” said study co-author and ecosystem-services expert Benis Igoh, assistant professor at UC Irvine. A set of measures.” She added, “Accounting for the interactions of visible ecosystem services is key to the multi-benefit assessment of restoration investments and the equitable monetization of benefits.”