Fire suppression makes wildfires more severe and accentuates impacts of climate change and fuel accumulation

Mark R. Kreider, Philip E. Higuera, Sean A. Parks, William Rice, Nadia White, Andrew J. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Fire suppression is the primary management response to wildfires in many areas globally. By removing less-extreme wildfires, this approach ensures that remaining wildfires burn under more extreme conditions. Here, we term this the “suppression bias” and use a simulation model to highlight how this bias fundamentally impacts wildfire activity, independent of fuel accumulation and climate change. We illustrate how attempting to suppress all wildfires necessarily means that fires will burn with more severe and less diverse ecological impacts, with burned area increasing at faster rates than expected from fuel accumulation or climate change. Over a human lifespan, the modeled impacts of the suppression bias exceed those from fuel accumulation or climate change alone, suggesting that suppression may exert a significant and underappreciated influence on patterns of fire globally. Managing wildfires to safely burn under low and moderate conditions is thus a critical tool to address the growing wildfire crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2412
Pages (from-to)2412
JournalNature Communications
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 25 2024

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