The enormous conflagration known as the Rim Fire was in full fury, raging swiftly from crown to crown among mature trees, when it entered the backcountry of Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevada in late August 2013. But inside the park, the battle began to turn, enacting a case study in the way management decisions and drought can combine to fuel large, severe fires.
"When the Rim Fire hit the park, it eventually encountered lands where fire had been used as a management tool, rather than immediately suppressed," said Hugh Safford, a regional ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service based out of Vallejo, Cal. "When the Rim Fire hit these areas, the amount and continuity of forest fuel became a limiting factor," he said. "There just wasn't enough fuel in the system to keep it going."
Safford will lead a group of visiting ecologists on a two-day excursion into the Rim Fire's path this August during the Ecological Society of America's 99th Annual Meeting to view the effects of the fire on adjacent landscapes that have been managed very differently over the last century.
Fire ecology is a hot topic at this year's meeting, which will bring 3,500 environmental scientists to Sacramento on August 10-15th to discuss the most recent advances in ecological research, education, and policy.
Day one of the field trip will take visitors to sites in the Stanislaus National Forest, and day two to the National Park.
"The minute you leave the park, you're on lands that get used by a lot of people for a lot of things," Safford said. "The Forest Service is dealing with places that have had a lot of human impact and occupants."
The Rim Fire: a natural experiment
The Rim Fire is in a sense a natural experiment. Yosemite, set
|Contact: Liza Lester|
Ecological Society of America