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US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Dave W Peterson

David W. Peterson

Research Forester
1133 N. Western Ave
Wenatchee, WA 98801
Phone: 509-664-1727
Fax: 509-665-8362


Current Research

I am currently focused on improving our understanding of how forest and rangeland vegetation responds to wildfire; how trees killed by wildfire decay and contribute to wildlife habitat, coarse woody debris, and fuels; and how post-fire management treatments can best be used to reduce threats (e.g., post-fire flooding and erosion, future high severity wildfires) and promote long-term ecosystem recovery. I am also working to evaluate the effectiveness of common forest restoration treatments (e.g., mechanical thinning and prescribed fire) for increasing resilience to fire and climatic variability and promoting biodiversity in fire-prone forest and savanna ecosystems.

Research Interests

My primary research interests are in the areas of fire ecology, forest ecology, restoration ecology, and climate change. I am interesting in understanding how forest, savanna, and grassland ecosystems respond to and influence natural fire regimes, especially fire frequency and intensity/severity. I am also interested in understanding how forest ecosystems respond to uncharacteristically severe fire events and how forest management practices can be used to manage potential fire behavior and ecosystem resilience to fire. As a forest ecologist living in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, I am interested in understanding how how forest structure, composition, and function vary across environmental gradients (e.g., precipitation, temperature). I am particularly interested in how climatic variability influences tree establishment and growth, and how tree growth responses to climate differ among species and across environmental gradients. Finally, I am interested in applying knowledge of fire and forest ecology to the problem of restoring and maintaining ecosystem structure, function, and biodiversity in fire-prone forests and savannas.

Past Research

My past work has included studies of tree growth responses to climatic variability using tree-ring analysis, with a particular emphasis on understanding the domonant climate-related stressors that limit growth of subalpine conifers, and how those dominant stressors differ among species, among geographic regions, and across environmental gradients. I have also studied the long-term effects of different prescribed fire frequencies on overstory structure, understory plant communities, and nitrogen availability in oak savannas and woodlands in Minnesota.

Why This Research is Important

In North America and many other parts of the world, humans have modified natural fire regimes through land use changes, landscape modifications, and active fire suppression, leading to significant changes in the structure, composition, and functioning of fire-prone forest, savanna, and grassland ecosystems. These altered ecosystems are often unsustainable and are now experiencing uncharacteristically severe wildfires that not only produce threats to human health and property (e.g., direct wildfire effects, post-fire flooding and erosion, loss of ecosystem services), but may also produce dramatic and persistent changes in the ecosystems (e.g., conversion of forests to shrubland or grassland). Climate change may enhance these problems by promoting longer fire seasons and more extreme fire weather. Forest managers are increasingly focusing their efforts on forest restoration, seeking to increase forest resilience to disturbances and climate change, promote and maintain biodiversity, and improve the capacity of ecosystems to adapt to change. My work contributes to these efforts by providing basic scientific knowledge about how ecosystems function and respond to disturbances and by assessing the effectiveness and ecological impacts of some of the management treatments used to achieve management objectives.

Education

  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D. Forestry (Forest Ecology), 1998
  • University of Washington, M.S. Forestry (Forest Ecology), 1993
  • Pacific Lutheran University, B.A. Mathematics and Computer Science, 1983

Professional Experience

  • Research Forester, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Laboratory
    2002 - Current
  • Research Associate, University of Washington, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    2000 - 2002
  • Lecturer, California Polytechnic State University, Natural Resources Management Dept.
    2000 - 2000
  • Research Associate, University of Washington, College of Forest Resources
    1998 - 2000

Professional Organizations

  • Association Of Fire Ecology, Member (2004 - Current)
  • Tree-Ring Society, Member (2003 - Current)
  • Ecological Society of America, Member (1996 - Current)
  • Northwest Scientific Association, Member (2003 - 2008)
  • Northwest Scientific Association, Board Member (2003 - 2006)

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Research Highlights

HighlightTitleYear


PNW-2013-016
Pros and Cons of Fuel Treatments Versus Periodic Wildfire Determined

Hazardous fuel treatments in dry Western forests generally reduce carbon storage over time compared to periodic wildfires, but the treatments en ...

2013


Last updated on : 03/13/2014