The first Bren School Strategic Environmental Research Initiative — SERI-Fire — facilitates collaboration among natural and social scientists, with the intention of developing new management strategies to prepare for and respond to wildfires in a changing climate.
This project is funded by NSF Hazards SEES: Land Management Strategies for Confronting Risks and Consequences of Wildfire (EAR-1520847) and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). SESYNC featured the SERI-Fire team in a film about wildfire management.
Wildfires have been increasing in the western U.S. and elsewhere, a trend that is expected to continue with climate change. And while fire plays a vital role in maintaining the health of many ecosystems, it can also be a destructive force that puts human communities at risk.
In the past few decades, evolving wildfire science has led to a shift away from employing “fire suppression” as a one-size-fits-all fire-management strategy, and recent ecological research has also highlighted how changes in climate and land-management practices can affect fire regimes and their impacts. Still, selecting the “right” fire management strategy when multiple variables are at play is a complex process requiring the integration of new fire science and new environmental considerations. While the ecology of fire in the western U.S. has been studied extensively, there is a dearth of information about how humans, particularly those residing at the wildland-urban interface, influence and respond to wildfire, and how institutional barriers may hinder effective fire management.
The greatest fire-management challenges lie in addressing simultaneously the threat to human well-being posed by fires, particularly at the wildland-urban interface; the uncertainties associated with various fire-related land-management practices, such as thinning and controlled burns; and the complicating factor of climate change.