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Webinar: Firescapes of the mid-Atlantic: challenges and opportunities for prescribed burning

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

Presenter: Erica Smithwick (Penn State)

Erica Smithwick (Penn State) reviewed context, results, and broader implications of the JFSP-funded research she led and recently completed. This presentation covered data published in the following papers and three other manuscripts in prep as of February 2022:

  1. Dems, C.L., Taylor, A.H., Smithwick, E.A.H. et al. Prescribed fire alters structure and composition of a mid-Atlantic oak forest up to eight years after burning. fire ecol 17, 10 (2021).

  2. Zhao, A., Taylor A.H., Smithwick E.A.H., Kaye, M., Harris, L.B. 2021. Simulated fire regimes favor oak and pine but affect carbon stocks in mixed oak forests in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Forest Ecology and Management 494, 15 August 2021, 119332,

Presentation abstract: Firescapes of the mid-Atlantic, U.S.A. are understudied relative to other ecosystems in the United States. Yet, they harbor high levels of wildland-urban interface, have a tight intermingling of land ownerships, and reflect substantial regional heterogeneity in burning histories and fire hazard. Moreover, mid-Atlantic fire practitioners increasingly seek guidance for understanding community perceptions of managed fire implementation to meet a variety of land management objectives including hazard reduction, restoration, and biodiversity. Here, I describe an interdisciplinary project using FVS modeling, post-fire observations, economic modeling, surveys, and focus groups to better understand the interactions between ecosystems’ need for fire, community perceptions, and management challenges. Our results highlight both barriers and opportunities for managed fire implementation in the region, identifying critical mismatches between ecosystems, communities, and managers. These include mismatches between ecologically desirable fire frequencies and agency planning horizons, scale mismatches that preclude regional-level coordination, community-manager variability in the perceived concerns and benefits, and mismatched integration of forest user benefits into fire planning. Collectively, these mismatches offer opportunities for better alignment of multi-scalar, multi-objective decision making in the context of landscape-level fire management.


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