Fire Ecology and Research

Scientific information is the cornerstone of safe and successful fire management.

The field of fire ecology seeks to understand when fires occurred in the past, how plants and animals in various environments respond and adapt to fire, and how fires and their effects may change in the future.

National Park Service fire managers strive to ensure the most current science-based information is integrated into fire and land management goals, decisions, and practices. This work includes collaborating with resource managers and scientists to develop fire management objectives that meet land management goals, designing and implementing monitoring programs to determine if objectives are met, and identifying questions that need to be answered through research studies. Providing this type of information to managers is critical to ensuring a scientifically based fire management program that will continue to improve as new knowledge is gained.

The fire effects monitoring program allows park managers to document basic information, to detect trends, and to ensure that each park meets its fire and resource management objectives.

Learn about Fire Research & Fire Ecology

Fire managers look to scientific research for guidance on how prescribed burns and lightning-started fires can can be used to benefit ecological systems. They examine historic fire regimes and past cultural practices, and use predictive modeling to study future fire effects under different climates and communities. Fire research is also important for forecasting fire behavior and spread across the landscape for suppression tactics, planning fuels reduction treatments, and fire season preparedness.

National park units host many scientific research studies. Parks are highly valued as study sites because the land has been protected, in some cases for more than 100 years. Research projects may be funded by a variety of sources both internal and external to the agency. In 1998, the Joint Fire Science Program, a partnership of six federal wildland, fire, and research organizations, was established to provide scientific information and support for fuel and fire management programs.

FFI is a monitoring software tool designed to assist managers with collection, storage, and analysis of ecological information. This database management system was developed to support immediate and long-term monitoring and reporting of fire effects, and its use encourages cooperative, interagency information sharing.

Fire Monitoring Handbook (PDF)
The fire monitoring methods described in the NPS Fire Monitoring Handbook allow park managers to document basic information, detect trends, and ensure that each park meets its fire and resource management objectives. From identified trends, park staff can articulate concerns, develop hypotheses, and identify specific research studies to develop solutions to problems.

Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity
The Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity project addresses the need to quantify fire effects over large, often-remote regions and long time intervals. It reflects collaborative efforts to bring previous research into operational implementation for fire managers and scientists.

Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations (5.12 MB)
Interagency technical monitoring reference.

Last updated: April 2, 2020