Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Jennifer Balch

Research Interests

We need to reassess the role of fire on Earth. At a global scale, we know very little about how fire influences ecosystem dynamics, and in turn, how ecosystem patterns and processes control the fire cycle. My research aims to understand the patterns and processes that underlie disturbance and ecosystem recovery, particularly how shifting fire regimes are reconfiguring tropical forests, encouraging non-native grass invasion, and affecting the global climate. My current and future research addresses the following major unsolved questions:

  • What is fire’s role in the Earth system? More specifically, how does fire contribute to global trends of climate warming and how does climate warming promote fire?
  • How are fire regimes altered by invasive species? Particularly, how is an invasive grass-fire cycle established and perpetuated?
  • How is the recent, unprecedented increase in human-initiated fires altering tropical-forest dynamics, and how has this increase in fire frequency changed carbon cycles and the recovery trajectory?

In addressing these questions, my research aims to explore global patterns of anthropogenic climate and land cover disruptions to help inform people about opportunities to curb and adapt to these changes.


View Publications

  • Joseph, M; Rossi, MW; Mietkiewicz, NP; Mahood, AL; Cattu, ME; St Dents, LA; Nagy, RC; Iglesias, V; Abatzoglou, JT; Balch, JK (2019), Spatiotemporal prediction of wildfire size extremes with Bayesian finite sample maxima. Ecol. Appl. Version: 1 29 (6) , issn: 1051-0761, doi: 10.1002/eap.1898, PubMed ID: 30980779
  • Cattau, M. E., Mahood, A., Wessman, C., and Balch, J. (2019), Anthropogenic and lightning-started fires are becoming larger, more intense, and more frequent over a longer season length in the U.S.. Version: 1, doi: 10.1111/geb.13058
  • Brando, PM; Paolucci, L; Ummenhofer, CC; Ordway, EM; Hartmann, H; Cattau, ME; Rattis, L; Medjibe, V; Coe, MT; Balch, J (2019), Droughts, Wildfires, and Forest Carbon Cycling: A Pantropical Synthesis. Version: 1 ANNUAL REVIEW OF EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCES, VOL 47 47 555-581, Ed. Jeanloz, R; Freeman, KH, issn: 0084-6597, isbn: 978-0-8243-2047-8, doi: 10.1146/annurev-earth-082517-010235
  • Mahood, Adam L., Jennifer K. Balch (2019), Repeated fires reduce plant diversity in low elevation Wyoming big sagebrush ecosystems 1984-2014. Ecosphere Version: 1 10 (2) , Art. No. e02591, doi:
  • Fusco, EJ; Finn, JT; Balch, JK; Nagy, RC; Bradley, BA (2019), Invasive grasses increase fire occurrence and frequency across US ecoregions. Version: 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 116 (47) 23594-23599, issn: 0027-8424, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1908253116, PubMed ID: 31685633
  • Fusco, EJ; Finn, JT; Abatzoglou, JT; Balch, JK; Dadashi, S; Bradley, BA (2019), Detection rates and biases of fire observations from MODIS and agency reports in the conterminous United States. Version: 1 REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT 220 30-40, issn: 0034-4257, doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2018.10.028
  • Williams, AP; Abatzoglou, JT; Gershunov, A; Guzman-Morales, J; Bishop, DA; Balch, JK; Lettenmaier, DP (2019), Observed Impacts of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Wildfire in California. Version: 1 EARTHS FUTURE 7 (8) 892-910, doi: 10.1029/2019EF001210
  • R. Chelsea Nagy, Emily J. Fusco, Jennifer Balch, John T. Finn, Adam Mahood, Jenica Allen, Bethany A. Bradley (2019), A synthesis of the effects of cheatgrass invasion on U.S. Great Basin carbon storage. Journal of Applied Ecology Version: 1, doi: 10.1002/ece3.3414
  • Sun, R; Balch, C (2019), Comparison Between 1-D and 3-D Geoelectric Field Methods to Calculate Geomagnetically Induced Currents: A Case Study. Version: 1 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY 34 (6) 2163-2172, issn: 0885-8977, doi: 10.1109/TPWRD.2019.2905532
  • Joseph, M. B., Rossi, M., Mietkiewicz, N. P., Mahood, A. L., Cattau, M. E., St. Denis, L. A., Nagy, R. C., Iglesias, V., Abatzaglou, J., Balch, J. K.. (2018), Spatiotemporal prediction of wildfire extremes with Bayesian finite sample maxima. bioRxiv Version: 1 384115 , doi: 10.1101/384115
  • Nagy, RC, E Fusco, B Bradley, JT Abatzoglou, and J Balch (2018), Human-Related Ignitions Increase the Number of Large Wildfires across U.S. Ecoregions. Fire Version: 1 1 (1) , Art. No. 4, doi: 10.3390/fire1010004
  • Balch, J., Schoennagel, T., Williams, P., Abatzoglou, J., Cattau, M. E., Mietkiewicz, N., St. Denis, L. (2018), Switching on the Big Burn of 2017. Fire Version: 1 1 (1) , Art. No. 17, doi: 10.3390/fire1010017
  • Bradley, BA, CA Curtis, EJ Fusco, JT Abatzoglou, JK Balch, S Dadashi and MN Tuanmu (2018), Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) distribution in the intermountain Western United States and its relationship to fire frequency, seasonality, and ignitions. Version: 1 BIOLOGICAL INVASIONS 20 (6) 1493-1506, issn: 1387-3547, doi: 10.1007/s10530-017-1641-8
  • Metcalfe, DB, W Rocha, JK Balch, PM Brando, CE Doughty and Y Malhi (2018), Impacts of fire on sources of soil CO2 efflux in a dry Amazon rain forest. Version: 1 GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 24 (8) 3629-3641, issn: 1354-1013, doi: 10.1111/gcb.14305, PubMed ID: 29748988
  • de Andrade, RB, JK Balch, JYO Carreira, PM Brando and AVL Freitas (2017), The impacts of recurrent fires on diversity of fruit-feeding butterflies in a south-eastern Amazon forest. Version: 1 JOURNAL OF TROPICAL ECOLOGY 33 22-32, issn: 0266-4674, doi: 10.1017/S0266467416000559
  • Balch, JK, BA Bradley, JT Abatzoglou, RC Nagy, EJ Fusco and AL Mahood (2017), Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States. Version: 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 114 (11) 2946-2951, issn: 0027-8424, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617394114, PubMed ID: 28242690
  • Schoennagel, T, JK Balch, H Brenkert-Smith, PE Dennison, BJ Harvey, MA Krawchuk, N Mietkiewicz, P Morgan, MA Moritz, R Rasker, MG Turner and C Whitlock (2017), Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes. Version: 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 114 (18) 4582-4590, issn: 0027-8424, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1617464114, PubMed ID: 28416662
  • de Andrade, RB, JK Balch, AL Parsons, D Armenteras, RM Roman-Cuesta and J Bulkan (2017), Scenarios in tropical forest degradation: carbon stock trajectories for REDD. Version: 1 CARBON BALANCE AND MANAGEMENT 12 , Art. No. 6, issn: 1750-0680, doi: 10.1186/s13021-017-0074-0, PubMed ID: 28326126
  • Fusco, EJ, JT Abatzoglou, JK Balch, JT Finn and BA Bradley (2016), Quantifying the human influence on fire ignition across the western USA. Version: 1 ECOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS 26 (8) 2388-2399, issn: 1051-0761, doi: 10.1002/eap.1395, PubMed ID: 27907256
  • Huang, JX, ML Guan, J Balch, E Wu, HY Rao, A Lin, L Wei and AS Lok (2016), Survey of hepatitis B knowledge and stigma among chronically infected patients and uninfected persons in Beijing, China. Version: 1 LIVER INTERNATIONAL 36 (11) 1595-1603, issn: 1478-3223, doi: 10.1111/liv.13168, PubMed ID: 27206379
  • Balch, JK, RC Nagy, S Archibald, DMJS Bowman, MA Moritz, CI Roos, AC Scott and GJ Williamson (2016), Global combustion: the connection between fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions (1997-2010). Version: 1 PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Royal-Society Scientific Meeting 371 (1696) , Royal Soc, London, ENGLAND, SEP 14-15, 2015, Art. No. 20150177, issn: 0962-8436, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0177, PubMed ID: 27216509
  • Abatzoglou, JT, CA Kolden, JK Balch and BA Bradley (2016), Controls on interannual variability in lightning-caused fire activity in the western US. Version: 1 ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS 11 (4) , Art. No. 45005, issn: 1748-9326, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/045005
  • Parsons, AL, JK Balch, RB de Andrade and PM Brando (2015), The role of leaf traits in determining litter flammability of south-eastern Amazon tree species. Version: 1 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF WILDLAND FIRE 24 (8) 1143-1153, issn: 1049-8001, doi: 10.1071/WF14182
  • Balch, JK, PM Brando, DC Nepstad, MT Coe, D Silverio, TJ Massad, EA Davidson, P Lefebvre, C Oliveira-Santos, W Rocha, RTS Cury, A Parsons and KS Carvalho (2015), The Susceptibility of Southeastern Amazon Forests to Fire: Insights from a Large-Scale Burn Experiment. Version: 1 BIOSCIENCE 65 (9) 893-905, issn: 0006-3568, doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv106
  • Massad, TJ, JK Balch, CL Mews, P Porto, B Marimon, RM Quintino, PM Brando, SA Vieira and SE Trumbore (2015), Early recruitment responses to interactions between frequent fires, nutrients, and herbivory in the southern Amazon. Version: 1 OECOLOGIA 178 (3) 807-817, issn: 0029-8549, doi: 10.1007/s00442-015-3259-9, PubMed ID: 25676107
  • Langen, TA, T Mourad, BW Grant, WK Gram, BJ Abraham, DS Fernandez, M Carroll, A Nuding, JK Balch, J Rodriguez and SE Hampton (2014), Using large public datasets in the undergraduate ecology classroom. Version: 1 FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 12 (6) 362-363, issn: 1540-9295, doi: 10.1890/1540-9295-12.6.362
  • Brando, PM, JK Balch, DC Nepstad, DC Morton, FE Putz, MT Coe, D Silverio, MN Macedo, EA Davidson, CC Nobrega, A Alencar and BS Soares (2014), Abrupt increases in Amazonian tree mortality due to drought-fire interactions. Version: 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 111 (17) 6347-6352, issn: 0027-8424, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1305499111, PubMed ID: 24733937
  • Roos, CI, DMJS Bowman, JK Balch, P Artaxo, WJ Bond, M Cochrane, CM DAntonio, R DeFries, M Mack, FH Johnston, MA Krawchuk, CA Kull, MA Moritz, S Pyne, AC Scott and TW Swetnam (2014), Pyrogeography, historical ecology, and the human dimensions of fire regimes. Version: 1 JOURNAL OF BIOGEOGRAPHY 41 (4) 833-836, issn: 0305-0270, doi: 10.1111/jbi.12285
  • Balch, JK (2014), ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE Drought and fire change sink to source. Version: 1 NATURE 506 (7486) 41-42, issn: 0028-0836, doi: 10.1038/506041a, PubMed ID: 24499913
  • Rocha, W, DB Metcalfe, CE Doughty, P Brando, D Silverio, K Halladay, DC Nepstad, JK Balch and Y Malhi (2014), Ecosystem productivity and carbon cycling in intact and annually burnt forest at the dry southern limit of the Amazon rainforest (Mato Grosso, Brazil). Version: 1 PLANT ECOLOGY & DIVERSITY 7 (2-Jan) 25-40, issn: 1755-0874, doi: 10.1080/17550874.2013.798368
  • Balch, JK, TJ Massad, PM Brando, DC Nepstad and LM Curran (2013), Effects of high-frequency understorey fires on woody plant regeneration in southeastern Amazonian forests. Version: 1 PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 368 (1619) , Art. No. 20120157, issn: 0962-8436, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0157, PubMed ID: 23610167
  • Silverio, DV, PM Brando, JK Balch, FE Putz, DC Nepstad, C Oliveira-Santos and MMC Bustamante (2013), Testing the Amazon savannization hypothesis: fire effects on invasion of a neotropical forest by native cerrado and exotic pasture grasses. Version: 1 PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 368 (1619) , Art. No. 20120427, issn: 0962-8436, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0427, PubMed ID: 23610179
  • Massad, TJ, JK Balch, EA Davidson, PM Brando, CL Mews, P Porto, RM Quintino, SA Vieira, B Marimon and SE Trumbore (2013), Interactions between repeated fire, nutrients, and insect herbivores affect the recovery of diversity in the southern Amazon. Version: 1 OECOLOGIA 172 (1) 219-229, issn: 0029-8549, doi: 10.1007/s00442-012-2482-x, PubMed ID: 23053239
  • Balch, JK, BA Bradley, CM DAntonio and J Gomez-Dans (2013), Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980-2009). Version: 1 GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 19 (1) 173-183, issn: 1354-1013, doi: 10.1111/gcb.12046, PubMed ID: 23504729
  • Davidson, EA, AC de Araujo, P Artaxo, JK Balch, IF Brown, MMC Bustamante, MT Coe, RS DeFries, M Keller, M Longo, JW Munger, W Schroeder, BS Soares, CM Souza and SC Wofsy (2012), The Amazon basin in transition (vol 481, pg 321, 2012). Version: 1 NATURE 483 (7388) 232-232, issn: 0028-0836, doi: 10.1038/nature10943
  • Brando, PM, DC Nepstad, JK Balch, B Bolker, MC Christman, M Coe and FE Putz (2012), Fire-induced tree mortality in a neotropical forest: the roles of bark traits, tree size, wood density and fire behavior. Version: 1 GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 18 (2) 630-641, issn: 1354-1013, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02533.x
  • Davidson, EA, AC de Araujo, P Artaxo, JK Balch, IF Brown, MMC Bustamante, MT Coe, RS DeFries, M Keller, M Longo, JW Munger, W Schroeder, BS Soares, CM Souza and SC Wofsy (2012), The Amazon basin in transition. Version: 1 NATURE 481 (7381) 321-328, issn: 0028-0836, doi: 10.1038/nature10717, PubMed ID: 22258611
  • Bowman, DMJS, J Balch, P Artaxo, WJ Bond, MA Cochrane, CM DAntonio, R DeFries, FH Johnston, JE Keeley, MA Krawchuk, CA Kull, M Mack, MA Moritz, S Pyne, CI Roos, AC Scott, NS Sodhi and TW Swetnam (2011), The human dimension of fire regimes on Earth. Version: 1 JOURNAL OF BIOGEOGRAPHY 38 (12) 2223-2236, issn: 0305-0270, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02595.x
  • Balch, JK, DC Nepstad, LM Curran, PM Brando, O Portela, P Guilherme, JD Reuning-Scherer and O de Carvalho (2011), Size, species, and fire behavior predict tree and liana mortality from experimental burns in the Brazilian Amazon. Version: 1 FOREST ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT 261 (1) 68-77, issn: 0378-1127, doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2010.09.029
  • Balch, JK, DC Nepstad, PM Brando and A Alencar (2010), Comment on "The Incidence of Fire in Amazonian Forests with Implications for REDD". Version: 1 SCIENCE 330 (6011) , issn: 0036-8075, doi: 10.1126/science.1194032, PubMed ID: 21164000
  • Silveira, JM, J Barlow, AV Krusche, KH Orwin, JK Balch and P Moutinho (2009), Effects of experimental fires on litter decomposition in a seasonally dry Amazonian forest. Version: 1 JOURNAL OF TROPICAL ECOLOGY 25 657-663, issn: 0266-4674, doi: 10.1017/S0266467409990150
  • Bowman, DMJS, JK Balch, P Artaxo, WJ Bond, JM Carlson, MA Cochrane, CM DAntonio, RS DeFries, JC Doyle, SP Harrison, FH Johnston, JE Keeley, MA Krawchuk, CA Kull, JB Marston, MA Moritz, IC Prentice, CI Roos, AC Scott, TW Swetnam, GR van der Werf and SJ Pyne (2009), Fire in the Earth System. Version: 1 SCIENCE 324 (5926) 481-484, issn: 0036-8075, doi: 10.1126/science.1163886, PubMed ID: 19390038
  • Balch, JK, DC Nepstad, PM Brando, LM Curran, O Portela, O de Carvalho and P Lefebvre (2008), Negative fire feedback in a transitional forest of southeastern Amazonia. Version: 1 GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY 14 (10) 2276-2287, issn: 1354-1013, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01655.x
  • Rodriguez, JP, JK Balch and KM Rodriguez-Clark (2007), Assessing extinction risk in the absence of species-level data: quantitative criteria for terrestrial ecosystems. Version: 1 BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION 16 (1) 183-209, issn: 0960-3115, doi: 10.1007/s10531-006-9102-1