Tree-Ring Research

Southwest Fire:

Biosphere 2 Earth Semester Special Notes

The Southwest has a strong ENSO (El Niño--Southern Oscillation) climate signal where rainfall (tree growth) tends to be high during El Niño years while rainfall (tree growth) tends to be low during La Niña years.

Fire occurrence of the past had a strong association with fuel buildup, which varies with climate variation, mainly rainfall. Therefore, fires of the past had a reasonably strong association with climate variation of the past. Just as past fires have been dated using tree-ring data, past climate has been reconstructed using tree-ring data. Thus, the fire-climate connection is made, and a particularly pertinent article about this is as follows:

Essay Assignment for Earth Semester Students

Your assignment is to write an essay on the topic of forest fire management. Please work in pairs; you should distribute your reading and writing tasks evenly with your partner. The essay may be up 5 pages of text (double-spaced text, normal margins), but it may include extra pages of figures in addition to the text. The structure of your essay might be something like this:

  1. Introduce the problem (1 page): What is the nature (at least potentially) of wildfire currently? How did we get to this point of dangerous wildfire hazard?
  2. Contrast the current nature of wildfire with that of the prehistoric past (2-3 pages): How do we know about past fire? Detail the role of dendrochronology in studies of past fire. How has frequency and intensity of fire changed from then to now? Also, describe briefly the role of climate variation on past fire occurrence.
  3. Assuming a national policy of returning wildfire to a more natural role in forests as interpreted from dendrochronological fire history studies, describe two strategies for doing so (1-2 pages). Detail the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.

Cite the web-accessible scientific and news articles as appropriate. It is not necessary to read and cite all of the articles included, but you should provide a range of examples. You may also download and include figures and images from the web-based presentation as appropriate.

This essay (one essay per pair) is due April 24.

Also, please print out and fill in this questionnaire to provide Paul with feedback about the web presentation on forest fire management.

Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, The University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721 USA
Main Office: (520) 621-1608, Fax: (520) 621-8229
Comments to Paul Sheppard: