Forests: Current Research

Landscape Scale Change in Forest Composition and Structure due to Climate Change, Hydrology, Wildfire, and their Interactions



Wildfire disturbance is important in shaping the composition and structure of inland Northwest forests. Climate plays a strong role both in shaping the fire regime, and in determining the successional trajectory of post-fire forests, so that as the climate changes, fire regimes and the composition and structure of post-fire forest are also likely to change. Predicting how forests will look and function in the future is difficult, however, because of the complex interactions between climate, hydrology, fire, and forest growth. We are linking state of the art models of hydrology (DHSVM) and forest landscape disturbance and succession (LANDCLIM), and projecting forest landscape change under a range of climate scenarios developed by CIG. This integrated modeling system will represent the major feedbacks between climate, hydrology, and fire in influencing forest succession. We begin by implementing the model over a meso-scale watershed (Stehekin) in the eastern Cascade Mountains, WA, which is thought to be particularly sensitive to climatic change because of its transitional status between maritime and continental climates.

Results of this initial modeling will provide a framework for extending the modeling to other watersheds, refining algorithms and linkages, and projecting the response of forests across the Pacific Northwest to climate change. Such projections will aid in the development of adaptation plans for fire, forest, wildlife, and freshwater resource management.


U.S. Forest Service, University of Washington College of Forest Resources, North Cascades National Park, US Geological Survey

Primary Funding


Related Publications

For publications on climate impacts on PNW forest ecosystems, please see CIG Publications.

McKenzie, D., D.L. Peterson, and J.S. Littell. 2009. Global warming and stress complexes in forests of western North America. pp. 319-337. In S. V. Krupa (series editor), Developments in Environmental Science, Vol. 8, Wild Land Fires and Air Pollution, A. Bytnerowicz, M. Arbaugh, A. Riebau, and C. Anderson (eds.). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier Science, Ltd.