Changing Fires, Changing Forests: The Effects of Climate Change on Wildfire Patterns and Forests in the Pacific Northwest

Boreal Forest —ST Rupp; AK CSC, 2017

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As the dominant force that sets the structure and function of most Pacific Northwest forests, fire is likely to be the major catalyst of forest change in a warming climate. Rising temperatures, decreased snowpack, and earlier snowmelt are expected to lead to longer fire seasons, dryer fuel, and an increase in the area burned by wildfires in the future. Forest managers therefore need information on how wildfire patterns and forests will change as the climate warms, in order to guide management activities that can sustain the important ecosystem services that forests provide – including timber production, carbon storage, improved water quality, and recreational opportunities.
 
To address this need, researchers will develop a state-of-the science report synthesizing the potential effects of changing climate conditions and wildfire patterns on forests in the Pacific Northwest. This will include projections of the short-term and long-term effects of changing fire patterns on forests, case studies illustrating recent trends, and recommendations for future research that will fill information gaps and inform forest management. The report will support decisions made regarding fire management, post-fire restoration activities, climate adaptation planning, and identification of future fire risks. This information will be made available to managers both in a detailed technical report and in non-technical and user-friendly fact sheets, interactive maps, and infographics.

Lead Investigator:
Brian Harvey, University of Washington

Other Investigator(s):
David Peterson, US Forest Service Jessica Halofsky, US Forest Service

Project Contact:
Brian Harvey, bjharvey@uw.edu

State: Regionwide

Funding Year: FY 2017

Project Status: In Progress

Topic Category: Fire

Science Agenda Theme: Communication of Science Findings, Response of Biological Systems to Climate Change, Response of Physical Systems to Climate Change

Discipline:

Partners: USDA Forest Service

Forest managers need information on how wildfire patterns and forests will change as the climate warms, in order to guide management activities that can sustain the important ecosystem services that forests provide – including timber production, carbon storage, improved water quality, and recreational opportunities. This project will produce a report that collates the best-available science, fills information gaps with an aim to inform forest management. The report will support decisions made regarding fire management, post-fire restoration activities, climate adaptation planning, and identification of future fire risks.