Webinar Series: Fire Ecology and Forest Resilience in the Pacific NW (5 of 8)
A Webinar Series by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement and the Washington Chapter of The Wildlife Society
When: Thursdays from 11:30 am to 12:30 noon Pacific Time (US and Canada)
March 7, 2024, through May 2, 2024 (excluding April 25)
Fire in moist forests of the Pacific Northwest: Then and now
Dr. Andrew Merschel and Dr. Matt Reilly, PNW Lab.
Fire plays a complex role in the development of forest structure and wildlife habitat in moist forests of the Pacific Northwest. Despite the perception that abundant precipitation and relatively infrequent lightning limited historical fire activity to large, high-severity fires during drought, recently developed fire histories document relatively frequent non-stand-replacing fires that shaped successional dynamics, forest conditions, and wildlife habitat in many moist forest landscapes. Non-stand-replacing fires facilitated the development of large complex tree crowns, multi-aged and multistoried canopies, mixed species composition, and the recruitment of snags and logs. European colonization, the cessation of Indigenous fire stewardship, and fire suppression reduced fire activity across the region over much of the past century. However, fire activity has increased in the last several decades, including both small and moderately size mixed-severity fires, as well as multiple very large, high-severity wildfires during dry, east wind events. Cumulatively, contemporary fires have reduced late-successional and old-growth forest habitat, while also contributing to the complexity of future old-growth forests and creating structurally diverse early seral habitats that were rare until recently. Although projections vary considerably across the region, climate change is expected to increase wildfire activity including larger and more frequent fires that will continue to shape moist forest landscapes in the future.