Climate & Fire & Adaptation

Colorado Wildland Fire Conference Logo

2023 Colorado Wildland Fire Conference

Conference website.

Journal article icon

Forest management under uncertainty: Influence of management versus climate change and wildfire in the Lake Tahoe Basin

View article.

We focused on three metrics that are important for forest management objectives for the area: forest carbon storage, area burned at high severity, and total area burned by wildfire. Management explained a substantial amount of variance in the short term for area burned at high severity and longer term carbon storage, while climate explained the most variance in total area burned. Our results suggest that simulated extensive management activities will not meet all the desired management objectives. Both the extent and intensity of forest management will need to increase significantly to keep pace with predicted climate and wildfire conditions.

Journal article icon

Future climate risks from stress, insects and fire across US forests

View article.

This study quantifies the climate drivers that influence wildfire and climate stress-driven tree mortality, including a separate insect-driven tree mortality, for the contiguous United States for current (1984–2018) and project these future disturbance risks over the 21st century. We find that current risks are widespread and projected to increase across different emissions scenarios by a factor of >4 for fire and >1.3 for climate-stress mortality. These forest disturbance risks highlight pervasive climate-sensitive disturbance impacts on US forests and raise questions about the risk management approach taken by forest carbon offset policies. Our results provide US-wide risk maps of key climate-sensitive disturbances for improving carbon cycle modeling, conservation and climate policy.

Journal article icon

Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality: Causal factors and management implications

View article.

At both sites climatic water deficit (CWD), a cumulative measure of moisture stress, and mean annual temperature increased during the 2010 decade and CWD was the highest in 2020 relative to any time during the past 40 years. Although Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality has not previously been attributed to bark beetles, we observed recent (i.e., 2013 to 2020) bark beetle-attacked trees at both sites, coincident with the timing of increasing temperature and CWD. Few adult beetles were produced, however, and our results support previous research that Great Basin bristlecone pine is a population sink for bark beetles. Because bark beetles are likely not self-sustaining in Great Basin bristlecone pine, bark beetle-caused mortality of this iconic species will most likely occur when it grows mixed with or near other pine species that support bark beetle population growth. We found Ips confusus and Dendroctonus ponderosae attacking Great Basin bristlecone pine in areas where their host trees, P. monophylla and P. flexilis, were also growing. These results suggest that the presence of these infested conifers likely contributed to Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality. We highlight several factors that may be used for prioritizing future research and monitoring to facilitate development of management strategies for protecting this iconic species.

Training icon

Wildfire and climate change for teachers (grades 6-12)

Check back for upcoming virtual workshop opportunities and curriculum materials.

Engage your students in hands-on activities to explore climate change and wildfire in the Southwest! This standards-aligned curriculum unit developed in coordination with the USDA Southwest Climate Hub uses experiments, games, demonstrations, and a group project to introduce students to how increased temperature and changes in precipitation affect wildfire risk in ecosystems. In this workshop, you will hear from an expert in the field, participate in a Q&A session, and then get training to implement these lessons in your classroom. Participating teachers will receive a $50 stipend and the opportunity to win raffle prizes.

Journal article icon

2020 California fire season: A year like no other, a return to the past, or harbinger of the future?

View article.

The 2020 fires were part of an accelerating decades-long trend of increasing burned area, fire size, fire severity and socio-ecological costs in California. In fire-prone forests, the management emphasis on reducing burned area should be replaced by a focus on reducing the severity of burning and restoring key ecosystem functions after fire. There have been positive developments in California vis-à-vis collaborative action and increased pace and scale of fuel management and pre- and postfire restoration, but the warming climate and other factors are rapidly constraining our options.

Journal article icon

Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality: Causal factors and management implications

View article.

This study reports on preliminary investigations into recent and unexpected Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality at two sites, including the potential roles of weather-induced stress and bark beetles. At both sites climatic water deficit (CWD), a cumulative measure of moisture stress, and mean annual temperature increased during the 2010 decade and CWD was the highest in 2020 relative to any time during the past 40 years. Although Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality has not previously been attributed to bark beetles, we observed recent (2013-20) bark beetle-attacked trees at both sites, coincident with the timing of increasing temperature and CWD. Few adult beetles were produced, however, and our results support previous research that Great Basin bristlecone pine is a population sink for bark beetles. Because bark beetles are likely not self-sustaining in Great Basin bristlecone pine, bark beetle-caused mortality of this iconic species will most likely occur when it grows mixed with or near other pine species that support bark beetle population growth. We found Ips confusus and Dendroctonus ponderosae attacking Great Basin bristlecone pine in areas where their host trees were also growing. These results suggest that the presence of these infested conifers likely contributed to Great Basin bristlecone pine mortality. We highlight several factors that may be used for prioritizing future research and monitoring to facilitate development of management strategies for protecting this iconic species.

Journal article icon

Interannual variation in climate contributes to post‐fire restoration outcomes in seeded sagebrush steppe

View article.

Across the Great Basin, sagebrush growth increased in wetter, cooler springs; however, the importance of spring weather varied with sites’ long‐term climates, suggesting differing ecophysiological limitations across sagebrush’s range. Incorporation of spring weather, including from the “planting year,” improved predictions of sagebrush recovery, but these advances were small compared to contributions of time‐invariant site characteristics. Given extreme weather conditions threatening this ecosystem, explicit consideration of weather could improve the allocation of management resources, such as by identifying areas requiring repeated treatments; but improved forecasts of shifting mean conditions with climate change may more significantly aid the prediction of sagebrush recovery.

Webinar, video, audio icon

Engaging Indigenous communities in climate resilience research

Webinar recording.

Description: This presentation discusses a partnership between the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT) in northern Nevada and a team of university-based scientists. The research team engaged PLPT stakeholder groups through workshops, interviews, and focus groups to understand how climate change and upstream pressures threaten PLPT ecosystems, lands, and resources. Stakeholders emphasized that climate change planning must be grounded in and informed by Indigenous knowledge practices and protocols, in conjunction with decolonizing approaches to climate adaptation research that returns agency to the PLPT.

Presenters: Schuyler Chew is Mohawk Wolf clan from Six Nations Grand River and grew up on the Tuscarora Nation. As an environmental scientist, he is committed to partnering with Indigenous communities on climate adaptation research. His dissertation research on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s resilience to climate change was funded in part by the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.
Karletta Chief (Diné) is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona, and is also the Director of the Indigenous Resilience Center (IRC). As an Extension Specialist, she works to bring relevant water science to Native American communities in a culturally sensitive manner, and at the IRC she aims to facilitate efforts of UArizona climate/environment researchers, faculty, staff, and students working with Native Nations to build resiliency to climate impacts and environmental challenges.

Journal article icon

Vegetation type conversion in the US Southwest: Frontline observations and management

View article.

Study findings underscore that type conversion is a common outcome of high-severity wildland fire in the southwestern US. Ecosystem managers are frontline observers of these far-reaching and potentially persistent changes, making their experiences valuable in further developing intervention strategies and research agendas. As its drivers increase with climate change, VTC appears increasingly likely in many ecological contexts and may require management paradigms to transition as well. Approaches to VTC potentially include developing new models of desired conditions, the use of experimentation by managers, and broader implementation of adaptive management strategies. Continuing to support and develop science-manager partnerships and peer learning groups will help to shape our response to ongoing rapid ecological transformations.

Narrow your search

Stay Connected