Many southwestern forests destroyed by megafires may never return

By Jim O’Donnell
The Genetic Literacy Project
May 15, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

While fire is an integral part of Southwest forest ecosystems, a century of policies geared toward fire suppression in the American West that has led to a lack of diversity is colliding with climate change, upending the rules. Historically, a mature forest would burn, then, over time, return to a healthy, recognizable state. Today, however, an unprecedented decades-long drought, rising temperatures and massive insect outbreaks are hammering forests across the region, creating ideal conditions for megafires like the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak inferno. Thanks to climate change, experts say many southwestern forests destroyed by megafires may never return. …“All bets are off,” says Thomas Swetnam, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Dendrochronology at the University of Arizona. “I hate to sound apocalyptic, but these are shocking, extraordinary events. The forests we had are not going to come back.”

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