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Data-Driven Wildland Fire Research

April 12, 2021 - 12:30pm

Zombie Forests: Fire Risk of the Standing Dead in the Sierra Nevada

Avery Hill

PhD Candidate, Dept. of Biology

The combination of climate change and historical fire suppression has led to overstocked forests throughout California that are at high risk of catastrophic wildfire, threatening human health, economy, and ecosystems. Previous research has highlighted how climate change increases the hot, dry conditions that prime forests for ignition, but the effect of climate change on vegetation distribution is a potential risk factor for catastrophic fire that has yet to be considered. Vegetation can become out of equilibrium with their local climate if unable to migrate or adapt quickly enough. This so-called vegetation disequilibrium can leave ecosystems at high risk for stand-replacing disturbances, like catastrophic wildfire. In particular, we focus on what we call ‘Zombie forests’ at California’s chaparral-forest interface. These forests were established under a previous climate regime, and now, may be at an especially high risk of type-conversion.


For seminar information, please contact Derek Fong at

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