Fire and climate change: conserving seasonally dry forests is still possible

Scott L. Stephens, A. Le Roy Westerling, Matthew D. Hurteau, M. Zachariah Peery, Courtney A. Schultz, Sally Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


The destructive wildfires that occurred recently in the western US starkly foreshadow the possible future of forest ecosystems and human communities in the region. With increases in the area burned by severe wildfire in seasonally dry forests expected to result from climate change, judicious, science-based fire and restoration strategies will be essential for improving the resilience of forest ecosystems. We argue that fire use treatments (including prescribed fires and managed wildfires) as well as restoration thinning strategies, rather than conflicting with existing environmental objectives, will provide numerous co-benefits, including enhanced biodiversity, increased water availability, greater long-term and more sustainable carbon storage, improved forest resilience and adaptation to climate change, and reduced air pollution. Timber production, however, may have to be better aligned with fire management goals to achieve these co-benefits. Taking immediate actions today to promote positive ecological outcomes in seasonally dry forests should be a primary focus of management, particularly in the western US.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-360
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


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