Fuel succession: monitoring and modeling ladder fuels to balance fire risk and carbon retention
Principal Investigator: Erin J. Hanan
Project Partners: Jonathan Greenberg
Institution: University of Nevada, Reno
Project Type: General Research
Grant Award: #8GG21807
Amount awarded: $499,997
Award Date: March, 2021
Wildfire is a major force regulating carbon retention in western North America, particularly in coniferous forests, which store more than one third of the earth’s terrestrial. Understory vegetation that propagates fire from the forest floor into the overstory canopy (i.e., ladder fuel) is a key component of fire behavior and carbon fluxes in coniferous forests because it provides a core matrix by which fires spread both horizontally and vertically. This research will develop capacity for remotely estimating the biomass and structure of ladder fuels at specific timepoints and will use those estimates to calibrate and improve process-based models. We will use improved models to examine how fuel management scenarios influence tradeoffs between fire risk and carbon retention across the Sierra Nevada. Specifically, we are: (1) developing workflows for estimating near-surface fuel loading and structure from lidar measurements; (2) using lidar estimates to calibrate and improve models for fuel succession at watershed scales; (3) using improved models to simulate fuel treatment scenarios and assess how their efficacy, longevity, and effects on carbon retention vary across multiple watershed spanning an aridity gradient in the Sierra Nevada; and (4) using statistical/machine learning approaches to analyze model outputs and identify the key drivers of fuel loading and structure over space and time. These drivers can provide a simple tool for optimizing location-specific treatment strategies across the region. This research will provide a framework for assessing how top-down climate and bottom-up environmental drivers interact to influence fire regimes at local and regional scales. More importantly, it will provide resource managers with location-specific guidelines for optimizing fuel treatments to reduce fire risk and maintain stable forest carbon across the Sierra Nevada.
Our proposed CARbon Dynamics Investigator for California (CARDI-C) will achieve this through establishing a collaboration between carbon cycle scientists at UC Davis and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory with forest conservation non-profits (The Conservation Fund), private entities (New Forests) and tribal communities (Yurok tribe) across the state. Specifically, this project will provide estimates of carbon uptake via photosynthesis and carbon storage as aboveground biomass at both a 500m, 8-day and 30m, annual timescale. Further, we will investigate the environmental drivers in carbon uptake using information on weather conditions and use this to predict how the carbon cycle of California’s forest will change going into the future. Ultimately, all of our model projects and forest carbon maps will be made publicly available through an open-source web platform, enabling land managers to understand how forest carbon might change into the future and evaluate current management strategies.
No publications at this time.