Wildifire Trends, Regeneration, and Intervention May 9
Kimberley Davis, PhD, Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Marcos Robies, Lead Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Arizona Field Office
Wildfires in the western United States are increasing in size and severity, raising concerns that forests killed by wildfire may not regenerate under increasingly warm, dry climate conditions. A collaborative team from the University of Montana, The Nature Conservancy, and the US Forest Service recently published a study in PNAS comparing the relative importance of climate versus fire severity – how many trees a fire kills – to forest recovery across conifer forests in the western US.
Using observations from over 10,000 sites and 50 researchers, the team found that warmer, drier conditions are reducing tree regeneration after wildfires. The team also found evidence that management interventions that reduce wildfire severity could partially offset climate-related declines in tree regeneration. The work highlights the next few decades as a window of opportunity over which management could minimize fire-caused loss of forests and associated ecosystem services including carbon storage.