Ecology

Managing for resiliency: Forests, fires and our future

By Ariana Kramer
Posted 10/17/19

Here in the West, living in or near forests means living with fire.

How can strategic forest management influence fire behavior and ecosystems? Can it be used to develop more resilient forests and human communities?

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Ecology

Managing for resiliency: Forests, fires and our future

Posted

Here in the West, living in or near forests means living with fire.

How can strategic forest management influence fire behavior and ecosystems? Can it be used to develop more resilient forests and human communities? These are questions Dr. Jens Stevens will discuss in tonight's lecture (Oct. 17), "The Role of Forest Management in an Era of Climate Change," hosted by The Nature Conservancy and the Río Grande Water Fund with support from the Taos Ski Valley Foundation.

The free talk will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street, Taos, (575) 758-9826. Doors open at 5 p.m. and seating is limited.

Stevens is a forest ecologist who works for the United States Geological Survey, New Mexico Landscape Field Station. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Carleton College in Minnesota, a master's in plant biology from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. in ecology from University of California, Davis.

In recent weeks, Stevens has had a particularly busy field schedule heading up a tree-planting project at Bandelier National Monument. He took some of his time off to answer interview questions from Taos News via email. Stevens describes his background, the focus of his talk and why it might appeal to those of us living in Northern New Mexico.

What regions and ecosystems have you studied and worked in? How long have you worked in New Mexico, and where are you working here?

I have done research on the tallgrass prairies of western Minnesota, the forests of western Massachusetts, the pine savannas of southern Florida and the mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada of California and the southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico. I have been working for the United States Geological Survey in Santa Fe since September 2018. The bulk of my research in New Mexico is focused on the Jémez Mountains in and around Bandelier National Monument.

What is your current work with the United States Geological Survey?

I study how forest management influences fire intensity, how fire behaves differently in different types of forests and how forests change and develop following fire.

What is the focus/title of your talk at the Harwood on Oct. 17?

The focus will be on science that myself and colleagues have done around forest management and climate influencing fire intensity and biodiversity, and more generally on what we know about the role of fire in different forest types across the western United States.

Describe a few of the main points you'll be making.

Fire has been absent for the past century or more in many western forests that used to burn every 5-15 years. This absence has led to a change in forest structure and diversity that has increased the occurrence of high-intensity fire and drought mortality. We have ways to manage the forest to restore historical structure and increase the resilience of old, large trees to fire, while still maintaining biodiversity, habitat for wildlife and downstream water use.

Why do you think it is important for New Mexicans to be concerned about forest health?

In a dry climate like New Mexico, one of the main reasons is for our water supply. We have examples of large intense fires disrupting downstream water supplies because of postfire erosion. But forests also provide fuel for people, store carbon in live trees and in the soil, remove CO2 from the atmosphere, can be reservoirs of biodiversity for all types of life and offer opportunities for recreation.

Do you have a target audience you are trying to reach, or is the lecture geared for the general public?

This audience is geared toward anyone interested in how we conduct science to understand our ecosystems, and how we use science to inform our land-management decisions. But it's also intended for anyone who is just interested in learning more about the different types of forests we have in New Mexico and across the western United States.

Anything else you'd like people to know about your work, background or lecture?

A majority of the research I have done is based in California, and much of the content here will describe California forests, which are both similar and different to New Mexican forests in interesting ways, which I will discuss.

For more information on Jens Stevens, visit stevensjt.net.

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