The Use of Science in Wildland Fire Management: a Review of Barriers and Facilitators

Molly E. Hunter, Melanie M. Colavito, Vita Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Science plays a critical role in natural resource management, and the use of science in decision-making is mandated by several policy initiatives. Other disciplines have documented the challenges associated with applying science to management and possible solutions to overcoming challenges, but the evaluation of science use in wildland fire management is relatively immature. In this paper, we reviewed the available literature that evaluates science use in wildland fire management and common barriers and facilitators to science use in decision-making. Recent Findings: We developed a conceptual model that describes the possible uses of science in fire management (perception, planning, forecasting, implementation, assessment, communication, and policy), common barriers to science use (lack of science, uncertainty, funding/capacity, conflict), common facilitators to fire science use (collaboration, trust, boundary organizations, co-production), and factors that can act as facilitators or barriers to science use depending on their presence or absence (awareness, accessibility, relevance). In the context of our conceptual model, we reviewed 67 papers that examined fire science use between 1986 and 2019. Summary: Most studies were conducted in the USA in the last 10 years and demonstrated that science is commonly used in fire management and that the maturation of organizations devoted to science translation and communication in the last 10 years has likely facilitated the application of fire science. The evaluation of fire science use, however, is still relatively immature, with studies needed on the use of fire science in countries outside the USA, the use of science in the management of wildfires, and in the crafting of policy related to wildland fire management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-367
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Forestry Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Co-production
  • Collaboration
  • Fire science
  • Science application

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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