Because of past land use changes and changing climate, forests are moving outside of their historical range of variation. As fires become more severe, forest managers are searching for strategies that can restore forest health and reduce fire risk. However, management activities are only one part of a suite of disturbance vectors that shape forest conditions.
Nearly 0.8 million hectares of land were burned in the North American Pacific Northwest (PNW) over two weeks under record-breaking fuel aridity and winds during the extraordinary 2020 fire season, representing a rare example of megafires in forests west of the Cascade Mountains.
Wildfires devastated communities in Oregon and Washington in September 2020, burning almost as much forest west of the Cascade Mountain crest (“the westside”) in 2 weeks (~340,000 ha) as in the previous five decades (~406,00 ha).
Implementation of wildfire- and climate-adaptation strategies in seasonally dry forests of western North America is impeded by numerous constraints and uncertainties. After more than a century of resource and land use change, some question the need for proactive management, particularly given novel social, ecological, and climatic conditions.
Early seral forest habitats are increasingly valued for the unique structural resources they provide in many western US forests. Coarse woody detritus (CWD) are a significant feature of this developmental stage and are highly dynamic, suggesting these environments exhibit temporally diverse structural conditions prior to forest canopy closure.