Fire refugia in late-successional forests: Predicting habitat persistence to support land management in an era of rapid global change
July 2018 - June 2021
- USGS NW Climate Adaptation Science Center
Recent stand-replacing wildfires in late-successional and old-growth and the threat of increasing wildfire extent and severity predicted under climate change for the US Pacific Northwest (PNW), have increased land manager interest in fire refugia in late-successional and old-growth (LSOG) forests. Forest fire refugia (i.e., places that remain unburned or experience minimal tree mortality compared to surrounding areas) - are key components of contemporary burn mosaics, and can provide vital habitat for threatened and endangered species, including northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet and red tree voles. However, conservation practitioners lack information on which locations are protected from, versus vulnerable to, high-severity, stand-replacing fire. Contemporary refugia have been identified as priority locations for biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation strategies at both regional and national scales. However, little is known about the predictability of LSOG forest fire refugia in the PNW.The overall goal of this project is to work with land managers to produce maps of the probability of contemporary fire refugia and stand-replacing fire in LSOG forests based on topography, fuels, fire weather, and climate. Leveraging the skills and expertise of a collaborative research team from OSU, USDA FS-PNW, USGS-FRESC, and USGS-CRU, we will model, map, and share information essential for the conservation of LSOG forest ecosystems in the PNW. These maps and associated products will provide timely information about the likely persistence and loss of LSOG forests under current and future climate conditions.