Fire Management in National Parks under Climate Change

Fire management in national parks under climate change

Project Team:

Dr. Guangyu Wang

Weiwei Wang, PhD student


Wildfire is one of the major disturbances in national parks. Especially, the high-severity forest fires can disrupt the material cycle and dynamic balance of the ecosystem and damage the biodiversity and ecological integrity of the national park. The smoke and embers that accompany the fire will further deteriorate the surrounding environment, and the mosaic landscape shaped by the fire may affect postfire seed dispersal and dominant species. On the other hand, wildfire is also an indispensable part of natural succession and has an important ecological role. Most of the native flora and fauna in the landscape have the adaptation for wildfires to survive or recolonize. Usually, the low-severity fires will not kill the large trees in the forest, emerging the thinning effect conducive to tree growth, wildlife foraging, and species diversity.

Therefore, understanding fire regimes, as well as the ecological values, is critical to the management of the dynamic national park ecosystems. Historical data derived from charcoal, pollen, and large plant fossils, as well as modern data obtained from remote sensing, plot surveys and other approaches, have greatly facilitated wildfire research. However, the spatiotemporal variation of fires can be dramatic, and the interpretation of fire records is often sophisticated. The interaction and intricate effects of climatic change, vegetation cover, land use, and visitor behaviour, and community activities further add the challenges in national park fire research.

The major research objectives include: i) to comprehensively understand the current progress and urgent issues on national park fire research, ii) to better simulate fire behaviour in national parks facing climate change and characterize the complex relationships between fires and other agents by developing existing models and tools, and iii) to provide a scientific and optimized fire strategy framework for national park fire management.

Research Contribution

Wang, W., Wang, X., Wu, W., Guo, F., Park, J., and Wang, G. 2021. Burn severity in Canada’s mountain national parks: patterns, drivers, and predictions. Submitted to: PNAS. Tracking #: 2021-23145 (under review).

Wang, W., Wu, W., Wang, G., and Guo, F. 2021. Fire regime and management in Canada’s protected areas. In: International Journal of Geoheritage and Parks (IJGP). Manuscript number: IJGEOP-D-21-00052 (under review).