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Jan 2023

Reduced fire severity offers near-term buffer to climate-driven declines in conifer resilience across the western United States

Kimberley T. Davis, Marcos D. Robles, Kerry B. Kemp, Philip E. Higuera, Teresa Chapman, Kerry L. Metlen, Jamie L. Peeler, Kyle C. Rodman, Travis Woolley, Robert N. Addington, Brian J. Buma, C. Alina Cansler, Michael J. Case, Brandon M. Collins, Jonathan D. Coop, Solomon Z. Dobrowski, Nathan S. Gill, Collin Haffey, Lucas B. Harris, Brian J. Harvey, Ryan D. Haugo, Matthew D. Hurteau, Dominik Kulakowski, Caitlin E. Littlefield, Lisa A. McCauley, Nicholas Povak, Kristen L. Shive, Edward Smith, Jens T. Stevens, Camille S. Stevens-Rumann, Alan H. Taylor, Alan J. Tepley, Derek J. N. Young, Robert A. Andrus, Mike A. Battaglia, Julia K. Berkey, Sebastian U. Busby, Amanda R. Carlson, Marin E. Chambers, Erich Kyle Dodson, Daniel C. Donato, William M. Downing, Paula J. Fornwalt, Joshua S. Halofsky, Ashley Hoffman, Andrés Holz, Jose M. Iniguez, Meg A. Krawchuk, Mark R. Kreider, Andrew J. Larson, Garrett W. Meigs, John Paul Roccaforte, Monica T. Rother, Hugh Safford, Michael Schaedel, Jason S. Sibold, Megan P. Singleton, Monica G. Turner, Alexandra K. Urza, Kyra D. Clark-Wolf, Larissa Yocom, Joseph B. Fontaine, and John L. Campbell
Fire, Forest Restoration Benefits, Topic

Warmer and drier climate conditions in western U.S. forests are making it less likely that trees can regenerate after wildfires, according to this study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Specifically, it found that warmer, drier conditions over the past four decades have led to a decline in tree regeneration after wildfires and this trend is expected to accelerate in the future. The most vulnerable forests were in drier regions in the Southwest and California, while forests in the wetter and cooler regions of the northern Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest are still expected to support conifer regeneration in the near-term future. Importantly, the research also found that ecologically based forest management can partially offset climate-driven declines in tree regeneration by limiting fire-caused tree death, but only if action is taken quickly. This study provides timely information to optimize new state and federal initiatives to increase the pace of ecologically based forest management across millions of acres of Western forests. The lead authors from The Nature Conservancy, the University of Montana, and the US Forest Service assembled the most extensive data set yet collected in the region collected by more than 50 research teams over 10,000 plots to evaluate regeneration of eight major tree conifer species after 334 wildfires.

(ALL RIGHTS GRANTED TNC) View of Escudilla Mountain. Fall colors heighten the natural beauty of forest and meadow in the White Mountains, one of Arizona’s last wide-open spaces and where TNC works to protect the headwaters of three major Arizona rivers: the Salt, Gila, and Little Colorado and their greenbelts – riparian habitats critical for wildlife and water quality – as well as restore healthy forests within the largest ponderosa pine community in the world, save rare and unique wildlife and plant species, and control non-native, invasive species, such as crayfish, Arizona. © Betsy D. Warner/TNC
Aerial view of the Parks West restoration site overseen by TNC. Taken March 16, 2020.
Conservancy staffers, Dale Turner and Amanda Rebore, helping to map the Sabn Pedro River in Arizona. They use a GPS unit to denote the end of the water flow on the LowerSan Pedro River. They hiked through the Conservancy’s San Pedro Preserve.

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The Nature Conservancy’s conservation science program in Arizona engages stakeholders and expertise in applied science and policy to develop new information, ideas, and tools that can help solve some of our most pressing challenges affecting people and nature

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Future Forests

We are working with partners and stakeholders to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration for a healthy Arizona

Mapping the Status of River Streams

Wet/dry mapping provides a low-cost, river-wide snapshot of hydrologic conditions for rivers with interrupted perennial surface flows.

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Sep 2023
Freshwater Assessment
San Pedro River
Dale Turner, Brooke Bushman, Lisa McCauley
San Pedro River Wet/Dry Map Animation
Every June groups of volunteers walk the entire 170 mile length of the San Pedro River and record where it is wet and where it is dry during the hottest, driest time of the year. Twenty years’ worth of data on summertime surface flows in the San Pedro River within the San Pedro Riparian National C[…]
Sep 2023
Arizona, Geo Region
Ecosystem, Forest
Forest Restoration Benefits, Topic
Jamie L Peeler, Lisa McCauley, Kerry L Metlen, Travis Woolley, Kimberley T Davis, Marcos D Robles, Ryan D Haugo, Karin L Riley, Philip E Higuera, Joseph E Fargione
Identifying opportunity hot spots for reducing the risk of wildfire-caused carbon loss in western US conifer forests
As both the climate and wildfire crises intensify and investments are made to dramatically increase the pace of forest restoration across dry forests in the western U.S. through the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, an understanding of where Nature-Based Solutions are the most optimal in lessening climate i[…]
Sep 2023
Arizona, Colorado River Basin, Western U.S.
Climate Change, Forest Restoration Benefits
Collaboration, USDA ARS
Ravindra Dwivedi, Joel A. Biederman, Patrick D. Broxton, Kangsan Lee, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Jessie K. Pearl
Forest density and snowpack stability regulate root zone water stress and percolation differently at two sites with contrasting ephemeral vs. stable seasonal snowpacks
Much of the western United States depends on high elevation snowpack in forested watersheds for water supply, wildlife habitat, and recreation in both adjacent and downstream communities. The forest-snow-water relationship is well studied in areas with stable – that is, cold – seasonal s[…]