This content will become publicly available on September 1, 2023
- ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more »
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Current Environmental Health Reports
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- 366 to 385
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Recent dramatic and deadly increases in global wildfire activity have increased attention on the causes of wildfires, their consequences, and how risk from wildfire might be mitigated. Here we bring together data on the changing risk and societal burden of wildfire in the United States. We estimate that nearly 50 million homes are currently in the wildland–urban interface in the United States, a number increasing by 1 million houses every 3 y. To illustrate how changes in wildfire activity might affect air pollution and related health outcomes, and how these linkages might guide future science and policy, we develop a statistical model that relates satellite-based fire and smoke data to information from pollution monitoring stations. Using the model, we estimate that wildfires have accounted for up to 25% of PM 2.5 (particulate matter with diameter <2.5 μm) in recent years across the United States, and up to half in some Western regions, with spatial patterns in ambient smoke exposure that do not follow traditional socioeconomic pollution exposure gradients. We combine the model with stylized scenarios to show that fuel management interventions could have large health benefits and that future health impacts from climate-change–induced wildfire smoke could approach projected overall increasesmore »
Fire strongly affects animals’ behavior, population dynamics, and environmental surroundings, which in turn are likely to affect their immune systems and exposure to pathogens. However, little work has yet been conducted on the effects of wildfires on wildlife disease. This research gap is rapidly growing in importance because wildfires are becoming globally more common and more severe, with unknown impacts on wildlife disease and unclear implications for livestock and human health in the future.
Here, we discussed how wildfires could influence susceptibility and exposure to infection in wild animals, and the potential consequences for ecology and public health. In our framework, we outlined how habitat loss and degradation caused by fire affect animals’ immune defenses, and how behavioral and demographic responses to fire affect pathogen exposure, spread, and maintenance. We identified relative unknowns that might influence disease dynamics in unpredictable ways (e.g., through altered community composition and effects on free-living parasites). Finally, we discussed avenues for future investigations of fire-disease links.
We hope that this review will stimulate much-needed research on the role of wildfire in influencing wildlife disease, providing an important source of information on disease dynamics in the wake of future wildfires and other natural disasters, andmore »
Vegetation response to wildfire and climate forcing in a Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine forest over the past 2500 yearsWildfire is a ubiquitous disturbance agent in subalpine forests in western North America. Lodgepole pine ( Pinus contorta var. latifolia), a dominant tree species in these forests, is largely resilient to high-severity fires, but this resilience may be compromised under future scenarios of altered climate and fire activity. We investigated fire occurrence and post-fire vegetation change in a lodgepole pine forest over the past 2500 years to understand ecosystem responses to variability in wildfire and climate. We reconstructed vegetation composition from pollen preserved in a sediment core from Chickaree Lake, Colorado, USA (1.5-ha lake), in Rocky Mountain National Park, and compared vegetation change to an existing fire history record. Pollen samples ( n = 52) were analyzed to characterize millennial-scale and short-term (decadal-scale) changes in vegetation associated with multiple high-severity fire events. Pollen assemblages were dominated by Pinus throughout the record, reflecting the persistence of lodgepole pine. Wildfires resulted in significant declines in Pinus pollen percentages, but pollen assemblages returned to pre-fire conditions after 18 fire events, within c.75 years. The primary broad-scale change was an increase in Picea, Artemisia, Rosaceae, and Arceuthobium pollen types, around 1155 calibrated years before present. The timing of this change is coincident with changesmore »
Multiple Dimensions of Resilience: How NEON Supports Ecology and the Research Community in the Face of Compounding DisastersQuantifying the resilience of ecological communities to increasingly frequent and severe environmental disturbance, such as natural disasters, requires long-term and continuous observations and a research community that is itself resilient. Investigators must have reliable access to data, a variety of resources to facilitate response to perturbation, and mechanisms for rapid and efficient return to function and/or adaptation to post-disaster conditions. There are always challenges to meeting these requirements, which may be compounded by multiple, co-occurring incidents. For example, travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic hindered preparations for, and responses to, environmental disasters that are the hallmarks of resilient research communities. During its initial years of data collection, a diversity of disturbances—earthquakes, wildfires, droughts, hurricanes and floods—have impacted sites at which the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) intends to measure organisms and environment for at least 30 years. These events strain both the natural and human communities associated with the Observatory, and additional stressors like public health crises only add to the burden. Here, we provide a case-study of how NEON has demonstrated not only internal resilience in the face of the public health crisis of COVID-19, but has also enhanced the resilience of ecological research communities associated with the networkmore »
Wildland fires have become a regular aspect of life for people living in the western United States. Wildfire smoke is now impacting air quality across the United States, and there are now more wildfire smoke-related illnesses and deaths in the eastern than the western United States. Unprecedented wildfires have swept through Australia, Russia, and Portugal in the last few years. Like other natural disasters, wildland fires can have a devastating impact on communities that are directly in their paths. However, they also cast a much bigger footprint due to the smoke they release on a global scale. These smoke events can lead to health warnings, noticeable irritation to the lungs, and cancelled outdoor events. They have quickly become part of the life experience of many students around the world. Their connections to global climate change and environmental policy, juxtaposition as positive forces in ecosystem succession, and relationship to a wide variety of both simple and complex natural phenomena leave science teachers with an opportunity to frame myriad lessons within the context of wildfire. We present a series of such lessons, adaptable to various levels of physical or integrated science.