Climate changes and wildfire alter vegetation of Yellowstone National Park, but forest cover persists

Ecosphere
By: , and 

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Abstract

We present landscape simulation results contrasting effects of changing climates on forest vegetation and fire regimes in Yellowstone National Park, USA, by mid-21st century. We simulated potential changes to fire dynamics and forest characteristics under three future climate projections representing a range of potential future conditions using the FireBGCv2 model. Under the future climate scenarios with moderate warming (>2°C) and moderate increases in precipitation (3–5%), model simulations resulted in 1.2–4.2 times more burned area, decreases in forest cover (10–44%), and reductions in basal area (14–60%). In these same scenarios, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) decreased in basal area (18–41%), while Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) basal area increased (21–58%). Conversely, mild warming (<2°C) coupled with greater increases in precipitation (12–13%) suggested an increase in forest cover and basal area by mid-century, with spruce and subalpine fir increasing in abundance. Overall, we found changes in forest tree species compositions were caused by the climate-mediated changes in fire regime (56–315% increase in annual area burned). Simulated changes in forest composition and fire regime under warming climates portray a landscape that shifts from lodgepole pine to Douglas-fir caused by the interaction between the magnitude and seasonality of future climate changes, by climate-induced changes in the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and by tree species response.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Climate changes and wildfire alter vegetation of Yellowstone National Park, but forest cover persists
Series title Ecosphere
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.1636
Volume 8
Issue 1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Geography
Description e01636; 16 p.
Country United States
State Wyoming
Other Geospatial Yellowstone National Park
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