Sean A. Parks

Sean A. Parks
US Forest Service | FS · Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, Rocky Mountain Research Station

About

102
Publications
44,172
Reads
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5,929
Citations
Citations since 2017
56 Research Items
4723 Citations
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Introduction
My research is aimed at better understanding how fire is influenced by climate, inter-annual climate variability, weather, fuel, and topography. I am particularly interested the role of wildland fire in influencing subsequent fires in terms of fire size, severity, ignition potential, etc. I am also investigating in fire-facilitated shifts from forest to non-forest. Lastly, I am interested in how climate change will affect the geographic distributions of fire regimes and other ecosystem characteristics (e.g. vegetation classes). Much of my work is focused on protected areas such as designated wilderness; protected areas provide an excellent natural laboratory for studying natural disturbances such as fire.

Publications

Publications (102)
Article
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Increases in burned area across the western US since the mid-1980’s have been widely documented and linked partially to climate factors, yet evaluations of trends in fire severity are lacking. Here, we evaluate fire severity trends and their interannual relationships to climate for western US forests from 1985-2017. Significant increases in annual...
Article
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Expanding the global protected area network is critical for addressing biodiversity declines and the climate crisis. However, how climate change will affect ecosystem representation within the protected area network remains unclear. Here we use spatial climate analogs to examine potential climate-driven shifts in terrestrial ecoregions and biomes u...
Article
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Abstract Fire severity is a key driver shaping the ecological structure and function of North American boreal ecosystems, a biome dominated by large, high‐intensity wildfires. Satellite‐derived burn severity maps have been an important tool in these remote landscapes for both fire and resource management. The conventional methodology to produce sat...
Article
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We review science‐based adaptation strategies for western North American (wNA) forests that include restoring active fire regimes and fostering resilient structure and composition of forested landscapes. As part of the review, we address common questions associated with climate adaptation and realignment treatments that run counter to a broad conse...
Article
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Increased wildfire activity combined with warm and dry post-fire conditions may undermine the mechanisms maintaining forest resilience to wildfires, potentially causing ecosystem transitions, or fire-catalyzed vegetation shifts. Stand-replacing fire is especially likely to catalyze vegetation shifts expected from climate change, by killing mature t...
Article
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Accurate assessment of burn severity is a critical need for an improved understanding of fire behavior and ecology and effective post-fire management. Although NASA Landsat satellites have a long history of use for remotely sensed mapping of burn severity, the recently launched (2015 and 2017) European Space Agency Sentinel-2 satellite constellation...
Article
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Purpose of Review Climate change will continue to alter spatial and temporal variation in fire characteristics, or pyrodiversity. The causes of pyrodiversity and its consequences for biological communities are emerging as a promising research area with great potential for understanding and predicting global change. We reviewed the literature relate...
Article
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Wildfire severity is a key indicator of both direct ecosystem impacts and indirect emissions impacts that affect air quality, climate, and public health far beyond the spatial footprint of the flames. Comprehensive, accurate inventories of severity and emissions are essential for assessing these impacts and setting appropriate fire management and h...
Article
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Fire regimes in North American forests are diverse and modern fire records are often too short to capture important patterns, trends, feedbacks, and drivers of variability. Tree‐ring fire scars provide valuable perspectives on fire regimes, including centuries‐long records of fire year, season, frequency, severity, and size. Here, we introduce the...
Article
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The remote sensing of fire severity and burned area is fundamental in the evaluation of fire impacts. The current study aimed to: (i) compare Sentinel-2 (S2) spectral indices to predict field-observed fire severity in Durango, Mexico; (ii) evaluate the effect of the compositing period (1 or 3 months), techniques (average or minimum), and phenologic...
Article
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Acting as a top-down control on fire activity, climate strongly affects wildfire in North American ecosystems through fuel moisture and ignitions. Departures from historical fire regimes due to climate change have significant implications for the structure and composition of boreal forests, as well as fire management and operations. In this researc...
Article
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Protected areas are essential to conserving biodiversity, yet changing climatic conditions challenge their efficacy. For example, novel and disappearing climates within the protected area network indicate that extant species may not have suitable climate in protected areas in the future. Further, potential transboundary range shifts, those that inv...
Article
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Wildfire activity in recent years is notable not only for an expansion of total area burned but also for large, single‐day fire spread events that pose challenges to ecological systems and human communities. Our objectives were to gain new insight into the relationships between extreme single‐day fire spread events, annual area burned, and fire sea...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Wilderness areas are important natural laboratories for scientists and managers working to understand fire ecology. In the last half-century, shifts in agency culture and policy have encouraged the management practice of letting some naturally ignited fires burn, allowing fire to fulfill its ecological role and increasing the extent of f...
Chapter
O período entre 2018 e 2022 mostrou-nos que o problema dos incêndios à escala global não está a diminuir, antes pelo contrário. Parece que as consequências das alterações climáticas já estão a afectar a ocorrência de incêndios florestais em várias partes do Mundo, de uma forma que só esperaríamos que acontecesse vários anos mais tarde. Em muitos pa...
Article
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In our paper titled, ‘Mean Composite Fire Severity Metrics Computed with Google Earth Engine Offer Improved Accuracy and Expanded Mapping Potential’ [...]
Article
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Significance Rising temperatures and increasing drought may compromise ecosystems’ abilities to recover from disturbance. This study reveals how recurring, large-scale patterns in drought variability have short- and long-term effects on forest recovery from wildfire in the western United States. Annual juvenile ponderosa pine recruitment in the Nor...
Article
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Wildland fires are globally widespread, constituting the primary forest disturbance in many ecosystems. Burn severity (fire-induced change to vegetation and soils) has short-term impacts on erosion and post-fire environments, and persistent effects on forest regeneration, making burn severity data important for managers and scientists. Analysts can...
Article
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Changing disturbance regimes and climate can overcome forest ecosystem resilience. Following high-severity fire, forest recovery may be compromised by lack of tree seed sources, warmer and drier postfire climate, or short-interval reburning. A potential outcome of the loss of resilience is the conversion of the prefire forest to a different forest...
Article
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An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
Article
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In contrast with current operational products of burned area, which are generally available one month after the fire, active fires are readily available, with potential application for early evaluation of approximate fire perimeters to support fire management decision making in near real time. While previous coarse-scale studies have focused on rel...
Article
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The top priority of fire management agencies in Canada is to protect human life and property. Here we investigate if decades of aggressive fire suppression in the boreal biome of Canada has reduced the proportion of recently burned forests (RBF; <30 years) near human communities, and thereby inadvertently increased the risk of wildfire. We measured...
Article
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Fire refugia–locations that burn less severely or frequently than surrounding areas–support late-successional and old-growth forest structure and function. This study investigates the influence of topography and fuels on the probability of forest fire refugia under varying fire weather conditions. We focus on recent large fires in Washington and Or...
Article
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Changes in individual climate variables have been widely documented over the past century. However, assessments that consider changes in the collective interaction amongst multiple climate variables are relevant for understanding climate impacts on ecological and human systems yet are less well documented than univariate changes. We calculate annua...
Article
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Climate connectivity, the ability of a landscape to promote or hinder the movement of organisms in response to a changing climate, is contingent on multiple factors including the distance organisms need to move to track suitable climate over time (i.e. climate velocity) and the resistance they experience along such routes. An additional considerati...
Data
These data were collected between 1996 and 2018 to represent the on the ground burn severity as estimated by the Composite Burn Index (CBI). These data can be regressed against satellite estimates of burn severity (e.g. Landsat Normalized Burn Ratio) to develop regression equations.
Raw Data
These data provide on the ground estimates of burn severity as estimated by the Composite Burn Index (CBI). Data were collected between 1996 and 2018 for fires that burned during this time period. Landsat imagery was used to develop regression relationships between the Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) and differenced NBR (dNBR). https://www.sciencebase....
Article
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Satellite-derived spectral indices such as the relativized burn ratio (RBR) allow fire severity maps to be produced in a relatively straightforward manner across multiple fires and broad spatial extents. These indices often have strong relationships with field-based measurements of fire severity, thereby justifying their widespread use in managemen...
Article
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Climate change poses a serious threat to biodiversity and unprecedented challenges to the preservation and protection of natural landscapes. We evaluated how climate change might affect vegetation in 22 of the largest and most iconic protected area (PA) complexes across North America. We use a climate analog model to estimate how dominant vegetatio...
Article
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Before the advent of intensive forest management and fire suppression, western North American forests exhibited a naturally occurring resistance and resilience to wildfires and other disturbances. Resilience, which encompasses resistance, reflects the amount of disruption an ecosystem can withstand before its structure or organization qualitatively...
Article
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Wildland fire is an understudied yet highly important disturbance agent on the Indian subcontinent. In particular, there is uncertainty regarding the degree to which annual climate variation influences inter-annual variability in fire activity. In this study, we evaluate wildland fire at two complementary spatial scales in the southern portion of t...
Article
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Human activities threaten the effectiveness of protected areas (PAs) in achieving their conservation goals across the globe. In this study, we contrast the influence of human and macro-environmental factors driving fire activity inside and outside PAs. Using area burned between 1984 and 2014 for 11 ecoregions in Canada and the United States, we bui...
Article
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Climate change is increasing fire activity in the western United States, which has the potential to accelerate climate-induced shifts in vegetation communities. Wildfire can catalyze vegetation change by killing adult trees that could otherwise persist in climate conditions no longer suitable for seedling establishment and survival. Recently docume...
Article
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Forests are an incredibly important resource across the globe, yet they are threatened by climate change through stressors such as drought, insect outbreaks, and wildfire. Trailing edge forests—those areas expected to experience range contractions under a changing climate—are of particular concern because of the potential for abrupt conversion to n...
Article
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As climatic conditions shift in coming decades, persistence of many populations will depend on their ability to colonize habitat newly suitable for their climatic requirements. Opportunities for such range shifts may be limited unless areas that facilitate dispersal under climate change are identified and protected from land uses that impede moveme...
Article
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Landsat-based fire severity datasets are an invaluable resource for monitoring and research purposes. These gridded fire severity datasets are generally produced with pre- and post-fire imagery to estimate the degree of fire-induced ecological change. Here, we introduce methods to produce three Landsat-based fire severity metrics using the Google E...
Article
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Climate change is expected to result in substantial ecological impacts across the globe. These impacts are uncertain but there is strong consensus that they will almost certainly affect fire regimes and vegetation. In this study, we evaluated how climate change may influence fire frequency, fire severity, and broad classes of vegetation in mountain...
Article
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Extensive high-severity wildfires have driven major losses of ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests in the southwestern United States, in some settings catalyzing enduring conversions to non-forested vegetation types. Management interventions to reduce the probability of stand-replacing wildfire have included mechanical fuel treatments, prescrib...
Article
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Wildland fire is a critical process in forests of the western United States (US). Variation in fire behavior, which is heavily influenced by fuel loading, terrain, weather, and vegetation type, leads to heterogeneity in fire severity across landscapes. The relative influence of these factors in driving fire severity, however, is poorly understood....
Article
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Many dry conifer forests in the southwestern USA and elsewhere historically (prior to the late 1800’s) experienced fairly frequent surface fire at intervals ranging from roughly five to 30 years. Due to more than 100 years of successful fire exclusion, however, many of these forests are now denser and more homogeneous, and therefore they have a gre...
Article
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In many forested ecosystems, it is increasingly recognized that the probability of burning is substantially reduced within the footprint of previously burned areas. This self-limiting effect of wildland fire is considered a fundamental emergent property of ecosystems and is partly responsible for structuring landscape heterogeneity (i.e. mosaics of...
Article
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We present TerraClimate, a dataset of high-spatial resolution (1/24°, ~4-km) monthly climate and climatic water balance for global terrestrial surfaces from 1958–2015. TerraClimate uses climatically aided interpolation, combining high-spatial resolution climatological normals from the WorldClim dataset, with coarser resolution time varying (i.e., m...
Article
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Multidecadal trends in areas burned with high severity shape ecological effects of fires, but most assessments are limited to ∼30 years of satellite data. We analysed the proportion of area burned with high severity, the annual area burned with high severity, the probability areas burned with high severity and also the area reburned (all severities...
Article
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Worldwide many businesses have recently pledged to sourcing agricultural and timber products exclusively from deforestation and fire-free supply chains. Geoinvestigations-monitoring the activities of plantation companies using satellites and concession maps-are now applied to identify which companies breach their commitments and regulations. We inv...
Article
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Ongoing climate change may undermine the effectiveness of protected area networks in preserving the set of biotic components and ecological processes they harbor, thereby jeopardizing their conservation capacity into the future. Metrics of climate change, particularly rates and spatial patterns of climatic alteration, can help assess potential thre...
Article
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As wildland fire activity continues to surge across the western US, it is increasingly important that we understand and quantify the environmental drivers of fire and how they vary across ecosystems. At daily to annual timescales, weather, fuels, and topography are known to influence characteristics such as area burned and fire severity. An underst...
Article
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In the United States, fuel reduction treatments are a standard land management tool to restore the structure and composition of forests that have been degraded by past management. Although treatments can have multiple purposes, their principal objective is to create landscape conditions where wildland fire can be safely managed to help achieve long...
Article
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Climate change velocity is a vector depiction of the rate of climate displacement used for assessing climate change impacts. Interpreting velocity requires an assumption that climate trajectory length is proportional to climate change exposure; longer paths suggest greater exposure. However, distance is an imperfect measure of exposure because it d...
Data
Supplementary Figures 1-4, Supplementary Tables 1-2
Article
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Humans affect fire regimes by providing ignition sources in some cases, suppressing wildfires in others, and altering natural vegetation in ways that may either promote or limit fire. In North America, several studies have evaluated the effects of society on fire activity; however, most studies have been regional or subcontinental in scope and used...