New Study from University of Montana Focuses on Forest Recovery After Wildfires

Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forest burned in the 1994 Idaho City Complex Fire on the Boise National Forest in Idaho, and little regeneration has occurred since. (Courtesy of Kimberley Davis)

A new study from researchers at the University of Montana focuses on the ability of low-elevation forests to regenerate after wildfires. The study, titled "Wildfires and Climate Change Push Low-elevation Forests Across a Critical Climate Threshold for Regeneration" and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that climate change makes it increasingly difficult for tree seedlings to regenerate following wildfires in low-elevation forests, which could contribute to abrupt forest loss.

From lead author Kimberley Davis, a postdoctoral research associate in the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation at UM: "Forests in the western U.S. are increasingly affected by both climate change and wildfires. The ability of forests to recover following wildfire depends on annual climate conditions, because tree seedlings are particularly vulnerable to hot and dry weather. We wanted to identify the specific conditions necessary for post-fire tree regeneration to better understand how climate change has been affecting forests through time...It is important to understand how climate change and wildfires will affect tree regeneration because forests are important economically, ecologically and culturally."

Co-authors at UM also included IoE affiliates Solomon Dobrowski, Philip Higuera, Anna Sala, and Marco Maneta, as well as co-authors from the U.S. Forest Service, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute

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