A warming climate and more frequent wildfires do not necessarily mean the western United States will see the forest loss that many scientists expect. Dry forest margins may be more resilient to climate change than previously thought if managed appropriately, according to Penn State researchers.
“The basic narrative is it’s just a matter of time before we lose these dry, low elevation forests,” said Lucas Harris, a postdoctoral scholar who worked on the project as part of his doctoral dissertation. “There’s increasing evidence that once disturbances like drought or wildfire remove the canopy and shrub cover in these dry forests, the trees have trouble coming back. On the other hand, there’s growing evidence that there’s a lot of spatial variability in how resilient these forests are to disturbances and climate change.”