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Climate Change Slows Forest Recovery After Wildfires

When most people think about climate change, images of intense heat and rising oceans spring to mind and the effect on forests receives little consideration. However, a Montana University study shows climate change is having a vicious impact on saplings in low-lying forests attempting to recover from wildfires, which may become a factor in the dramatic decline of forests.

When Montana University’s Kimberley Davis and her co-authors investigated the relationship between annual climate and recovery from wildfire in low-lying forests in the North American west, they discovered the forests are increasingly affected by both climate change and wildfires.

A study of the rings of over 2,800 trees that had regrown after wildfires in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico between 1988 and 2015 showed regeneration rates were extremely low when temperature, humidity, soil moisture and other seasonal climate conditions crossed a specific threshold.

Says Davis, “We already knew of several low-lying regions where current climate conditions are unsuitable for forest regrowth. Serious fires in these regions may become catalysts for the areas to change from forests to grasslands and shrub belts.”

One of the UN’s social development goals–Life on Land–seeks to prevent such phenomena.

2019.04.20