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Helping Fire Professionals Understand and Manage Changing Fire Regimes

Changing Fire Regimes and Management Strategies
Principal Investigator
Mark Shafer


Start Date
End Date
Release Date


Fire is a natural and necessary component of the South Central Plains ecosystem. However, fire suppression and more frequent droughts in the region have resulted in a build-up of dry fuels loads such as dead wood, resulting in fires that burn hotter and impact the landscape more severely. Uncontrolled wildfires have cost the region several billion dollars over the past five years. Further, fire suppression has resulted in substantial losses in native plant biodiversity and wildlife habitat, which also has costly implications. In Oklahoma alone, it’s estimated that $157 million will be required to restore rangelands to their native conditions. Of further concern is the fact that projected changes in climate indicate that the region [...]

Child Items (4)


Principal Investigator :
Mark Shafer
Co-Investigator :
John Weir, Brian Hays, Amy Hays
Funding Agency :
South Central CSC
CMS Group :
Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) Program

Attached Files

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“Cheatgrass fire - Credit: USDA-NRCS ”
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Fires are common and a natural part of the ecosystem of the South Central Plains, but fire suppression has resulted in a build up in fuel loads, creating wildfires that burn hotter and have more severe and lasting impacts on the landscape. While a great deal of research is ongoing, this research needs to be better connected to the people who implement these land management practices. This project will conduct an analysis of “fire days” which are (a) suitable for prescribed burns, or (b) days of high wildfire potential, using historical climate observations and projections from downscaled climate models. A team of fire researchers led by Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University will convene a summit of leading researchers, agencies, and land owners to discuss the safe and proper application of fire in a changing and variable climate. Results from the climate analysis will be presented and discussed along with management strategies for fire and its role in combating invasive plant species, maintaining productive landscapes, and enhancing wildlife habitat. A summary report of the discussions, key issues, and recommendations will be prepared and distributed through the convening institutions and partners, the Prescribed Fire Community of Practice, and through webinars.

Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueFires are a common and natural part of ecosystems n the South Central Plains, but buildup of fuel loads from decades of fire suppression has increased fire risk and altered the landscape. Climate change projections point toward increased frequency and severity of drought due to increased evapotranspiration and longer intervals between precipitation events. Demographic pressure are causing expansion of the wildland-urban interface. Understanding how fire, both controlled and uncontrolled, interacts with the landscape and how management practices can lessen these risks is of critical concern. This project will conduct a climatological analysis of burn conditions, projections for midcentury, and convene a forum to discuss fire risk and management practices. Historical climate data will be used to classify days from 2000-2014 as low, neutral, or high fire days. Spatial patterns, seasonality and trend in frequency of each of these conditions will be analyze. The analysis will be repeated using mid-century climate projections. A regional forum will be convened to present the study results and engage landowners and managers, state agencies, university researchers, and non-governmental organizations in a discussion of risk and management strategies. A summary report will be produced and distributed through multiple extension and outreach channels. The project is led by a collaboration of researchers from the University of Oklahoma (climatology), Oklahoma State University (prescribed fire), and Texas A&M University (ecology and extension).

Budget Extension

typeAgreement Type
typeAgreement Number

Cheatgrass fire - Credit: USDA-NRCS
Cheatgrass fire - Credit: USDA-NRCS


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers
  • South Central CASC

Associated Items


Fiscal Year
Science Themes
CMS Themes
CMS Topics
Drought, Fire and Extreme Weather
CMS Status



Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC a4ab77ab-8c30-4b0b-bb9a-7bddbe9799fe
StampID NCCWSC SC14-SM0238

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