Major study highlights five critical challenges

As wildfires wreak increasing havoc around the world, dozens of fire experts across the country are stepping up to call for a stronger approach strategic and interdisciplinary approach to furthering wildfire research and protecting vulnerable communities.

A new study, led by a scientist from the Nationwide Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and co-authored by 86 other fire experts from various disciplines, highlights barriers to fire science and provides tips for investing in foreseeable future research. The comment follows a five-day Innovation Lab, sponsored by the U.S. Nationwide Science Foundation (NSF), which brought together diverse research communities in May 2021 to develop a roadmap for new research directions.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Countrywide Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Nexus, the study outlines five key challenges to advancing the study of fire. These range from marketing coordinated research to leveraging diverse knowledge resources.

“We need to develop a proactive fire research program that helps create safe communities and ecosystems,” said NCAR scientist Jacquelyn Shuman, the lead author. “This requires a more interdisciplinary approach and the creation of diverse partnerships to make better use of existing knowledge.”

Scientists make their recommendations at a time when wildfires pose a growing global risk, spurred in large part by climate change, generations of fire suppression and more development at the interface between nature and the urban. The past few decades have seen a substantial increase in the length of the fire season as far north as the Arctic, as well as intense conflagrations from the tropical wetlands of the Pantanal in South America to the bogs of tropical Asia. In the western United States, hotter, drier conditions have prompted fires that have scorched nearly twice the area as of th century compared to the end of the th century.

Despite the increasing destruction wildfires, the authors point out that fire is a fundamental element of ecosystems globally and has been used by society to manage landscapes for millennia.

The innovation lab motivating this comment was funded by the NSF, which is the sponsor of NCAR.

Major advances in research

Using observation systems, field campaigns and From increasingly advanced computer models, scientists have made significant progress in better understanding and anticipating the behavior of wildfires, as well as the effects of smoke on the quality of the fire. looks. However, these advances have often been made in isolation, rather than being integrated into a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the causes and impacts of fires.

Recognizing the need for an approach More convergent, the Innovation Lab last year brought together industry experts from federal agencies and universities. They represented fields ranging from ecology, forestry and anthropology to geomorphology, hydrology and informatics, among others.

The five challenges described in the document, which are based on these conversations, are as follows:

  • Integrate all disciplines by promoting coordination between the physical, biological and social sciences. Fire research is currently siled into disciplines such as forestry, atmospheric chemistry, and others, but wildfires are a biophysical and social phenomenon that cannot be understood from a single disciplinary lens
  • Adopt different ways of knowing and generating knowledge to identify pathways to resilience. Humans of various groups and views, including indigenous peoples of tribal nations, can provide scientists with invaluable information about fire
  • Fire is such an ancient and ubiquitous phenomenon that it can be used to help build new knowledge in a range of sciences, including ecology and evolutionary biology, the evolution of Homo sapiens and social dynamics
  • With more data now available to study fire in the biosphere than never before have scientists needed funding to harness the data revolution and aid our understanding of fire
  • Develop coupled models integrating human proportions to better anticipate future fires. To better anticipate potential fire activity and its impacts, scientists need to develop more advanced computer modeling systems that incorporate both human and non-human proportions of fire

“We have a lot more information about the fires than before, but we need more funding and better coordination to deploy them globally,” Shuman said. “This will allow us to be more proactive as we work to help society and ecosystems become more resilient to the growing risk of fires.”

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