Widespread exposure to altered fire regimes under 2 °C warming is projected to transform conifer forests of the Western United States

Tyler J. Hoecker, Sean A. Parks, Meade Krosby, Solomon Z. Dobrowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Changes in wildfire frequency and severity are altering conifer forests and pose threats to biodiversity and natural climate solutions. Where and when feedbacks between vegetation and fire could mediate forest transformation are unresolved. Here, for the western United States, we used climate analogs to measure exposure to fire-regime change; quantified the direction and spatial distribution of changes in burn severity; and intersected exposure with fire-resistance trait data. We measured exposure as multivariate dissimilarities between contemporary distributions of fire frequency, burn severity, and vegetation productivity and distributions supported by a 2 °C-warmer climate. We project exposure to fire-regime change across 65% of western US conifer forests and mean burn severity to ultimately decline across 63% because of feedbacks with forest productivity and fire frequency. We find that forests occupying disparate portions of climate space are vulnerable to projected fire-regime changes. Forests may adapt to future disturbance regimes, but trajectories remain uncertain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number295
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

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