Tuesday, September 27, 2011

University of Arizona to study human-fire-climate interactions

Spero News: A University of Arizona-led research team will study the interplay among human activities at the wildland-urban interface, climate change and fire-adapted pine forests. While fire is a natural part of the Southwest's forests and grasslands, the region's massive forest fires this year were exacerbated by decade-long drought. In addition, more people are living in or near fire-adapted ecosystems, increasing the likelihood that human activities will affect and be affected by forest fires.

Now a UA-led interdisciplinary team of researchers will examine how humans in the Southwest have responded to changes in the surrounding forests over multiple centuries with the help of a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. "Humans and fire are interconnected all the way back to our beginnings," said Thomas W. Swetnam, principal investigator on the grant and director of the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

The project is about forest fire history, fuels and forests, how human activities have changed them, and the influence of drought and dry conditions, he said. "Drought and dry conditions are going to keep going on, so there's an urgency in understanding what's happening," Swetnam said. "We're seeking to know how we can live in these forests and these landscapes so they are more resilient in the face of climate change."...

From July 2011, the Las Conchas Fire seen from Placitas, New Mexico. Shot by John Fowler, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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