Managing fire on populated forest landscapes (13w5125)

Arriving in Banff, Alberta Sunday, October 20 and departing Friday October 25, 2013


John (Willard) Braun (University of Western Ontario)

(Western University)

(Norwegian Computing Center)

(University of Toronto)

(Wilfrid Laurier University)

Mike Wotton (Canadian Forest Service)


The proposed workshop will target three main areas: modelling wildfire impacts, fire management and the effects of climate change. The timeliness of the workshop should be clear, since there is some urgency to the need to improve the modelling and management tools required to mitigate wildfire risk to populated areas.

Wildfire Impacts: Sophisticated fire occurrence modelling beyond simple log-odds of presence-absence modelling is required. Spatially and temporally explicit methods that map the risk of counts, of large fires, of spread events and local clusters of fires, and the potential for a suppressed fire to escape initial attack are needed. Smoke transport models at fine local scales and coarser broader scales need to be developed using data obtained from remote satellite images. Questions to be addressed include: How can such models assist operational decisions, and how can climate change be incorporated by quantifying historical trends and by exploring the potential implications of future climate scenarios?

Fire Management: Fire behaviour on a continental and on a global scale is inherently heterogeneous. In some areas of Canada, fuel is actively managed through the use of prescribed fire and the residential “Fire Smart” practices. Are these activities having a meaningful impact on mitigating the risk of large, out of control fire events that threaten communities? What ecological and forest management strategies are needed to maintain the current landscape mosaic and levels of biodiversity while protecting people, property and other values at risk? And what levels of risk are acceptable for populated areas that interface with flammable landscapes?

Dealing with Climate Change: The statistical analysis of historical climate change signals is ongoing. What trends are evident in these data sets? Is the fire season getting longer? Are we seeing more extreme events or shifts? How can we forecast climate impacts on climate change scenarios and quantify the uncertainty of any such point estimate? What effects does topography have on fire weather, and can current interpolation methods for fire weather data be improved upon? How can these methods be applied to better inform fire and forest management planning operations?

The aforementioned areas and themes tie into the Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 initiative. Weather, climate, the environment, health effects and the management of finite planetary resources will be considered. Methodology and tools applicable to a broad range of problems common to the field of environmetrics will be developed via the mathematical and statistical modelling of large and complex data sets that span long time horizons over vast geographic extents. Moreover, the team of researchers on the organizing committee as well as the proposed list of invitees have demonstrated success in this area and hope to continue to build on this success through the continued support of BIRS.

In order to maximize the benefit of the workshop, we will host several research webinars in advance of the meeting at BIRS. Those webinars will allow the questions and problems in these areas to be posed, data to be shared, and for researchers to begin investigating mathematical and statistical solutions to problems in fire management science. The workshop will then serve as a forum for a series of in-person meetings to focus concerted efforts on making further headway on these projects, and engage the participants in working sessions with tangible outputs.