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A future with fewer forests

NSF-funded researchers say forest resilience declines in face of wildfires, climate change

December 14, 2017

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As wildfires continue to rage in California, a future with fewer forests is very real, according to findings from a new study on the resilience of Rocky Mountain forests. A team led by Colorado State University and the University of Idaho, and funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), analyzed data from nearly 1,500 sites spanning five states. The researchers measured more than 63,000 seedlings after 52 wildfires that burned over the past three decades.

A warming climate makes forests potentially less resilient after wildfires, the team said. In one-third of the areas studied, researchers found no seedlings growing, suggesting landscapes could be forever changed. Is there anything that can be done?

The team says they will continue to work with land managers to promote new tree growth and to forecast changes from forests to grassland and shrub lands.

--  Dena Headlee, (703) 292-7739

Monica Rother
Camille Stevens-Rumann

Related Institutions/Organizations
University of Idaho
Colorado State University

Related Awards
#1232997 Doctoral Dissertation Research: Spatial and Temporal Variability of Post-Fire Conifer Regeneration in Lower Treeline Forests of the U.S. Rocky Mountains
#0966472 PIRE: Wildfire feedbacks and consequences of altered fire regimes in the face of climate and land-use change in Tasmania, New Zealand, and the western U.S.