Are southwestern forests resilient to wildfire in an era of climate change? Donald Falk, University of Arizona researcher and wildfire expert, will explore this topic at the Arizona Senior Academy on Thursday (Oct. 19) at 3:30 p.m.
Traditional approaches to restoration after a wildfire are being seriously challenged by current and emerging conditions of climate, land use, non-native species, and altered hydrogeochemical cycles. In some cases, environments may have changed so dramatically that restoring past configurations after a wildfire is no longer possible or even relevant to conservation goals.
Consequently, ecological restoration grounded in historical authenticity may become less viable in coming decades.
Instead, a new paradigm that emphasizes ecological resilience, rather than pure restoration, is emerging. In the new model, a degree of change from past conditions is accepted not only as pragmatically inevitable, but also potentially adaptive.
The central goal of resilience ecology is to facilitate the adaptation of ecosystems to emerging conditions, even when post-fire species differ from what existed previously.
A resilience approach emphasizes combined strategies of resistance (e.g. survival and persistence), recovery (re-establishing the prior community where possible), and reorganization (allowing new suites of species to colonize that may be more adaptive under emerging conditions).
Falk will illustrate resilience ecology using changing fire regimes and demography in the Southwest. He also will explore the implications of potentially irreversible ecosystem responses for land management in the coming century.
Falk is an associate professor in the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment, with joint appointments in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and the Institute of the Environment. He holds degrees from Oberlin College, Tufts University, and the University of Arizona. Falk’s research focuses on fire history, fire ecology, and restoration ecology in a changing world.
Written by Margaret Scott, Academy Village Volunteer