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.