Scientists & Staff

Paul Hessburg

Paul Hessburg

Research Landscape Ecologist
1133 N Western Ave., Suite 108A
Wenatchee, WA, 98801-1229
Phone: 509-423-9269

Contact Paul Hessburg


Current Research

My current research focuses on four themes: the landscape and disturbance ecology of western US forests, climate change effects on forests, wildfire resilience mechanisms, and the ecology and sociology of landscape restoration.

Research Interests

  • Hierarchical dimensions of pre-settlement and modern era landscapes
  • Landscape spatial patterns and connectivity relations
  • Impacts of landscape changes on successional conditions, disturbance processes, and habitats of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
  • Anticipated climate change effects on 21st century landscapes and needed adaptations

Past Research

My past research has included:
  • Twentieth century changes in vegetation patterns, insect and disease hazards, wildfire behavior, and smoke emissions in inland forests
  • Classifying forest structure evolution in disturbance prone landscapes
  • Developing decision support systems for evaluating landscape departures, wildfire danger, prioritizing vegetation and fuels treatments
  • Finding temporal patterns of climatic regimes in the Inland West
  • Re-examining fire severity relations in pre-management era mixed conifer forests
  • Thinning and prescribed fire effects on bark beetle-induced mortality, snag abundance, and pattern in an eastern Cascade Range dry forest
  • Characterizing native fire regimes and landscape resilience mechanisms

Why This Research is Important

The only landscape constant is change. Our research has demonstrated the need for whole-landscape planning, management, and conservation models. Prior to our efforts, restoration of fire-prone forests was defined at the stand scale, usually as a simple re-creation of site-specific conditions believed to have existed there a century ago. Our work has shifted the frame of reference from the stands to landscapes and their cross-connected pattern-process relations. This transforms the discussion from ‘Which trees should we leave in this stand?' to ‘How do we create patterns of forest and nonforest, and of forest structure and composition on the landscape that will motivate more typical wildfire and insect and pathogen disturbance regimes?' Our research has enabled stakeholders, scientists, and managers to work together to transition current landscape conditions to those that are more in synch with changing climatic and wildfire regimes. 

Education

  • Oregon State University (Summa Cum Laude), Ph.D. Botany And Plant Pathology Ecology and Epidemiology of Forest Pathogens, Forest Pathology, 1984
  • University of Minnesota (Magna Cum Laude), B.S. Forestry Ecosystem Analysis and Silviculture, 1978

Professional Experience

  • Professor (Courtesy), College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 2018 - Current
  • GS-408-15, Research Landscape Ecologist, USDA-FS, PNW Research Station, EPF Program, LCI Team 2008 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), College of the Environment, SEFS, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 2003 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), Dept. of Nat. Res. Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 2002 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), Dept. of Geography, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA 1995 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), Dept. of Forestry, Range, & Wildlife, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 1994 - Current
  • Science Team Leader, Eastside Forest Health Restoration Team, Managing Disturbance Regimes Program, PNW Research Station. 2002 - 2011
  • GS-408-14, Research Ecologist, USDA-FS, PNW Research Station, MDR Program, East-side Forest Health Restoration Team 2002 - 2007
  • GS-434-13, Research Plant Pathologist, USDA-FS, PNW Research Station, MDR Program, East-side Forest Health Restoration Team 1994 - 2002
  • Landscape Ecology Team Co-lead, Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, Walla Walla, WA. 1993 - 1997
  • Research and Development Team Co-lead, Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, Walla Walla, WA. 1993 - 1997
  • Landscape Assessment Lead, Eastside Forest Ecosystem Health Assessment 1992 - 1993
  • GS-434-12, Area Plant Pathologist, Eastern Washington Zone, Wenatchee, WA. 1990 - 1992
  • GS-434-12, Plant Pathologist, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR 1987 - 1990
  • GS-434-11, Plant Pathologist, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR 1985 - 1987
  • GS-434-11, Plant Pathologist , Southwestern Region, Albuquerque, NM 1985 - 1985
  • GS-434-9, Plant Pathologist , Southwestern Region, Albuquerque, NM 1984 - 1984
  • Graduate Research Assistant , Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 1978 - 1984

Professional Organizations

  • Chelan-Douglas Land Trust
    Lands Committee
  • Chelan-Douglas Land Trust (2003 - 2016)
    Board of Directors
  • Chelan-Douglas Land Trust (2003 - 2016)
    Lands Committee
  • Chelan-Douglas Land Trust (1998 - 2016)
    Board of Directors
  • Association for Fire Ecology (2010 - 2013)
    Board of Directors
  • Association for Fire Ecology (2008 - 2013)
    Board of Directors

Awards & Recognition

  • USDA-FS, Superior Performance Awards, 2019 43 awards, from 1984-2019
  • USDA-FS Outstanding Performance Awards, 2019 With certificate and quality salary step increase, 2010, 2011, 2017, 2018
  • Distinguished Scientist, PNW Research Station, , 2017 Station Director's Award
  • Distinguished Scientist, USDA-FS, Research and Development, 2017 Deputy Chief of Research Award
  • USDA Science Findings , 2017 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Update , 2017 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Findings , 2015 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Findings , 2014 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • Wilberforce Fellowship , 2014 Conservation Science Communication
  • USDA Science Findings , 2010 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Update , 2005 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Update , 2002 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Findings , 1997 Research Award, $10,000.00
  • Bayley Doctoral Research Fellow, College of Science, Oregon State University, 1984 Awarded to the top doctoral student in the Colleges of Science
  • Bayley Doctoral Research Fellow, College of Science, Oregon State University, 1983 Awarded to the top doctoral student in the Colleges of Science

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Other Publications

  • Churchill, D.J., Larson, A.J., Dahlgreen, M.C., Franklin, J.F. Hessburg, P.F., Lutz, J.A. 2013. Restoring forest resilience: from reference spatial patterns to silvicultural prescriptions and monitoring. Forest Ecology and Management 291: 442-457.

National Research Highlights

Burn damage after the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire in Washington State. The Carlton Complex is one of several large wildfires being studied to determine how fuel treatment programs and past wildfires affect the spread and severity of wildfires.

Strategically-placed Fuel Treatments Contributes to Resilient Landscapes

Year: 2019

The 2014 Carlton Complex in north-central Washington was a “megafire.” It burned 167,000 acres within 24 hours, driven by strong warm winds through a drought-ridden landscape. By examining burn severity within the footprints of past fuel reduction treatments and prior wildfires, USDA Forest Service scientists are identifying how strategic placement of fuel treatments in fire-prone landscapes may contribute to resilient landscapes.

A prescribed burn near Sisters, Oregon. Jeff Kline, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Analyses of landscape management strategies for mixed-severity fire regime forests in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California leads to new management and policy paradigms for fire

Year: 2016

Nine strategies aimed at reconciling potentially conflicting management goals for forests having mixed-severity fire regimes are being used in discussions informing a variety of agency and collaborative planning efforts in the region.

National forests in eastern Oregon and Washington are using information from this new synthesis to plan restoration projects.? USDA Forest Service

Synthesis on Mixed-Conifer Forest Science Provides Scientific and Practical Guidance to Landscape Restoration

Year: 2015

Forest Service and university scientists developed a comprehensive synthesis of the best available science about mixed conifer forests in eastern Oregon and Washington. The synthesis calls for a significant change in the culture and emphasis of vegetation management projects in the region.

A prescribed burn on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. USDA Forest Service

Seven Core Principles Can Guide Restoration of Fire-prone Inland Pacific Landscapes

Year: 2015

More than a century of forest and fire management of Inland Pacific landscapes has transformed their successional and disturbance dynamics. Current efforts to address these impacts yield a small footprint in comparison to wildfires and insect outbreaks. Moreover, many current projects emphasize thinning and fuels reduction within individual forest stands, while overlooking large-scale habitat connectivity and disturbance flow issues.

Last modified: Thursday, October 1, 2020