A fifth of California’s Sierra Nevada conifer forests are stranded in habitats that have grown too warm for them

By Rob Jordan, Stanford University
February 22, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

The conifer tree native to lower elevations of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range finds itself in an unrecognizable climate. A new Stanford-led study reveals that about a fifth of all Sierra Nevada conifer forests are a “mismatch” for their regions’ warming weather. The paper highlights how such “zombie forests” are temporarily cheating death, likely to be replaced with tree species better adapted to the climate after one of California’s increasingly frequent catastrophic wildfires. “Forest and fire managers need to know where their limited resources can have the most impact,” said lead author Avery Hill. “This study provides a strong foundation for understanding where forest transitions are likely to occur, and how that will affect future ecosystem processes like wildfire regimes.” …The study’s first-of-its-kind maps paint a picture of rapidly changing landscapes that will require more adaptive wildfire management.

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