Fire and Forest Change

A caliper is used to measure the diameter of a tree seedling growing in an area of previous burn.

The Lookout Fire and initial forest responses may be the current prime example of climate change impacts in the Andrews Forest, as anticipated more than 30 years ago. In a 1992 paper, Andrews Forest researchers predicted that, “the most rapid and extensive biotic changes in forests from climate change will be caused by altered disturbance regimes. Disturbances create the conditions for change in ecosystems, effectively doing the work of eliminating the established forest with its inertia, or tolerance of altered climate conditions. … Increased frequency of fire is certain under the climate change scenario, and greater intensities are probable” This paper goes on to say, “the most environmentally sensitive stage for western tree species is at the time of seedling establishment.”  The predictions of the 1992 paper seem to be playing out here and now: climate warming may be enhancing wildfire regionally, and it also may influence forest succession after wildfire.  Ongoing work by Andrews Forest researchers on vegetation response to fire is poised to interpret forest response to simultaneous increased fire and warming.

First posted September 18, 2023