Fule, PZ. 2008. Does it make sense to restore wildland fire in changing climate? Restoration Ecology 16(4): 526-531.

This paper is an opinion piece looking at the value of using fire as a restoration tool in the context of climate change. The focus of the paper is pine forests of western North America that experienced frequent, low intensity fire prior to the onset of fire suppression. These forests changed drastically from the beginning of fire suppression and have been the focus of large scale restoration using prescribed fire, wildfire and mechanical thinning. Typically, these restoration projects have used historical reference data from the mid-1700s to set restoration targets. The author questions the utility of this in the context of climate change.

Overall, the author concludes that restoring fire is still relevant. Some of the more interesting arguments he makes are:
· Historical reference conditions should be viewed not as a snapshot in time, but as representative of the evolutionary history of the species involved.
· Reference conditions from paleo studies are especially useful because they capture ecological change over a time period long enough to capture significant climate change.
· Restoring processes such as fire increases resilience.
· Reference conditions from southern/low elevation areas of species’ ranges should be used for projects at northern/high elevation locations.

What’s missing:
· I don’t think he adequately addressing the role disturbance may have in facilitating rapid ecological change in the context of climate change.
· One of the most interesting things about this article is the focus on process rather than structure/composition, but it isn’t explicitly addressed.

Post and photo credit: Alison Forrestel

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