U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, General Technical Report RMRS-GTR-290, September 2012


US goverment work


Fire will play an important role in shaping forest and stream ecosystems as the climate changes. Historic observations show increased dryness accompanying more widespread fire and forest die-off. These events punctuate gradual changes to ecosystems and sometimes generate stepwise changes in ecosystems. Climate vulnerability assessments need to account for fire in their calculus. The biophysical template of forest and stream ecosystems determines much of their response to fire. This report describes the framework of how fire and climate change work together to affect forest and fish communities. Learning how to adapt will come from testing, probing, and pushing that framework and then proposing new ideas. The western U.S. defies generalizations, and much learning must necessarily be local in implication. This report serves as a scaffold for that learning. It comprises three primary chapters on physical processes, biological interactions, and management decisions, accompanied by a special section with separately authored papers addressing interactions of fish populations with wildfire. Any one of these documents could stand on its own. Taken together, they serve as a useful reference with varying levels of detail for land managers and resource specialists. Readers looking for an executive summary are directed to the sections titled “Introduction” and “Next Steps.”