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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

Sustaining Forests

Fire Effects in Eastern Forests

Research Issue

[photo:]  Red maple stem heating experiment.Understanding fire effects requires consideration of the processes by which the effects occur.  We are applying process-based (mechanistic) approaches to modeling fire effects on endangered Indiana bats and fire-caused tree injury and mortality.  Fires pose risks for bats but also provide opportunities for improving bat roosting habitat, our project considers both sides of the problem.  Ecologists and land managers would like to predict tree injury and mortality from fire behavior, but the tools available are not sufficiently process-based to be general, that is, applicable across a wide range of species and locations.  In our tree injury and mortality work, we seek to develop general models.      

Our Research

In our Tree Injury and Mortality project, we are collaborating on the development of FireStem, a stem heating and injury model, and are extending the model to crown injury.  In the Indiana Bat project, we are modeling potential effects of fires on bats through a linked series of steps:  heat release from fires drives smoke transport across burn units and the resulting exposures to gas and heat in roosts cause toxicological effects.   Literature reviews and field research on bat habitat relations and behavior provide context for our modeling.

Expected Outcomes

Our research is designed to advance development of a comprehensive, process-based fire effects model for the USFS and beyond. Specific projects include: 1) optimizing and validating FireStem, a tree stem heating and injury model; 2) extending our ability to link fire behavior with both stem and canopy injury; and 3) producing relationships that can predict smoke exposures to fauna in shelters.

Our work will define the prescribed fire conditions under which tree roosting bats (especially the endangered Indiana bat) experience a high risk of injury. At the same time, we are quantifying effects of fire on bat habitat quality, including increases in insect prey resources following fire.

A national collaboration is reviewing the state-of-the-science in fire effects prediction. The series of papers will explore research in fire monitoring, fire effects on soils, vegetation, and fauna, and the devleopment of software systems for land manageement.

Research Results

Bova, Anthony S.; Dickinson, Matthew B. 2009. An inverse method to estimate stem surface heat flux in wildland fires. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 18: 711-721.

Dickinson, Matthew B.; Lacki, Michael J.; Cox, Daniel R. 2009. Fire and the endangered Indiana bat. In: Hutchinson, Todd F., ed. Proceedings of the 3rd fire in eastern oak forests conference; 2008 May 20-22; Carbondale, IL. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-46. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 51-75.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

Research Partners

  • Anthony S. Bova, USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station Physical Scientist
  • Bret W. Butler, USDA Forest Service – Rocky Mountain Research Station Research Engineer
  • Dan Jimenez, USDA Forest Service – Rocky Mountain Research Station Research Engineer
  • Brent Webb, Brigham Young University, Department of Mechanical Engineering - Professor
  • Valerie L. Young, Ohio University, Chemical Engineering Department - Associate Professor
  • James Norris, Norris Consulting Services
  • Michael J. Lacki, University of Kentucky, Department of Forestry - Professor

Last Modified: 02/22/2010