Nav: Home

Climate change causing more severe wildfires, larger insect outbreaks in temperate forests

November 07, 2018

A warmer, drier climate is expected is increase the likelihood of larger-scale forest disturbances such as wildfires, insect outbreaks, disease and drought, according to a new study co-authored by a Portland State University professor.

The study, published Oct. 19 in the journal Nature Communications, sought to provide a more complete snapshot of disturbances in the world's temperate forests by quantifying the size, shape and prevalence of disturbances and understanding their drivers.

The researchers analyzed 50 protected areas like national parks as well as their immediate surroundings, allowing them to compare disturbances inside protected areas that are more climate-related from those just outside that would also be impacted by human land use.

The study found that while many temperate forests are dominated by small-scale disturbance events -- driven largely by windstorms and cooler, wetter conditions -- there was also a strong link between high disturbance activity and warmer and drier-than-average climate conditions. Andrés Holz, a co-author and geography professor in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said this suggests that with a warming climate, disturbances are expected to become larger and more severe in some temperate forests including the western U.S.

"Under the warmer conditions we have been seeing, it is likely that we're going to see a higher probability of areas that tend to have very big disturbances," he said.

Among the study's findings:

Areas with low disturbance activity were largely associated with windstorms under cooler, rainy conditions, while areas with large disturbance activity were largely associated with wildfires, bark beetle outbreaks and drought under warmer, drier conditions.

In the majority of landscapes outside protected areas, disturbance patches were generally larger and less complex in shape than in protected areas. For example, man-made disturbances like logging are simpler in shape than the path a wildfire, storm or insect outbreak might take inside a protected area. But in landscapes affected by large-scale fires or outbreaks, the size and complexity of what happens inside and outside the protected areas are more comparable.

"Climate change is mimicking the footprint of disturbances in protected areas to what we are doing through land-use change outside of protected areas," Holz said. "Under warmer conditions, we might see more similarities between protected areas and their surroundings in some temperate forests globally."
-end-


Portland State University

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".