Portland, Ore. November 13, 2003. When you
turn on the television news for the latest weather report, usually
a week-long forecast
is given. But what if you could learn what to expect in the coming
Scientists have now developed computer models that are producing
the first simulations of how ecosystems and fire regimes could
change in the 21st century.
Some of these simulations are showing that the Western United States may get
wetter during the winter and experience warmer summers throughout the 21st
century. These results have been used in national and global assessments of
global climate change.
The research, conducted by scientists from the USDA Forest Service
Pacific Northwest Research (PNW) Station, Oregon State University,
and others from
around the world, provides key evidence that fire and fuel loads in Western
forests are linked to global carbon balance.
The research team, led by PNW Research Station bioclimatologist Ron Neilson,
developed the mapped-atmosphere-plant-soil system model (MAPSS) that can
simulate vegetation type in any area of the world and can determine the impact
“Climate change shows up in forests first as changes in
Neilson. “The second way is through changes in disturbance regimes—the
long-term patterns of fire, drought, insects, and diseases that are basic
to forest development.”
Because fire plays a big role in changing ecosystems,
Neilson and his team combined the MAPPS model with CENTURY (MC1), a biogeochemical
by a team at Colorado State University, as well as a new fire model.
“MC1 accurately simulated the fire pulses of the last 100 years, with the
big fires in the same areas where they actually occurred,” says Neilson. “It
simulated the 1910 fires in Idaho, and it nailed Yellowstone in 1988. It was
in the ballpark on the Tillamook Burn of the 1930s and a year early on the Biscuit
Fire in southwest Oregon, which actually burned in 2002.”
For more information go to http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/corvallis/mdr/mapss/consensus