IDEAL UK FIRE: Toward Informed Decisions on Ecologically Adaptive Land management for mitigating UK FIRE

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences


Targeted management of the UK's fire prone landscapes will be crucial in enabling the country to achieve its commitments both to reach net zero by 2050 and to halt species decline by 2030. Many of our fire prone landscapes represent nationally significant carbon (C) stores. They also provide key habitats for unique species including many on the UK BAP Priority Species listing and are of strategic conservation value. But these typically shrub and grass dominated ecosystems are threatened both by the changing UK wildfire regime and some management tools aimed to mitigate this risk. Critical trade-offs therefore exist between the impact of episodic severe wildfire events and ongoing long term management practises, as well as between the positive and negative impacts of management tools on different prioritised ecosystem services; notably between C storage, habitat management and biodiversity provision. These trade-offs and the associated best management practises will vary between landscapes that have different management history, vegetation composition, legacy soil C stores and natural environmental conditions. Thus selection of the appropriate land management from the diverse toolkit available needs to be very carefully considered; the right tool to address the right priorities at the right location. The evidence base to make this complex choice, however, is currently weak. This undermines the ability of decision makers locally and nationally to assess the consequences of different wildfire management tools.

IDEAL UK FIRE will address this urgent need, by determining the environmental costs and benefits of widely applied fuel management tools (burning, cutting, rewetting and managed succession) on habitat quality, biodiversity and the carbon balance in fire prone UK landscapes. We will directly contrast those medium-/long-term responses against the initial impact of the fuel management interventions and potential wildfires of varying severity. Through i) observations and collation of extensive historical monitoring, ii) experimental burns and wider management intervention and iii) the adaptation and application of the JULES land surface model, FlamMap fire analysis system and the Rangeshifter eco-evolutionary modelling platform, the project will:

- Quantify carbon consumption and charcoal production across a range of (wild)fire and management intensities in different landscapes and under different land management strategies.
- Determine the medium-term trajectories of biodiversity and carbon balance post intervention through a national chronosequence of management tools.
- Develop next generation models to simulate the national long-term consequences of land management strategies to the UK ecosystem carbon balance, carbon climate feedbacks, habitat quality and biodiversity.

We embed all this knowledge into a newly developed accredited training module for the land management sector. The module supports land managers to understand the consequences of different management tools, supporting them to make informed decisions in their landscapes to best meet both national and local management goals. The training programme will provide a generalisable frame-work to evaluate land management practices and a knowledge platform to inform government policy on the costs and benefits of wildfire management tools.


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