David W. Peterson
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.
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 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.
My past work has included studies of tree growth responses to climatic variability using tree-ring analysis, with a particular emphasis on understanding the dominant 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.
- University of Minnesota, Forestry (Forest Ecology) , 1998
- University of Washington, Forestry (Forest Ecology) , 1993
- Pacific Lutheran University, Mathematics and Computer Science , 1983
- 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
- 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
- Peterson, David W.; Dodson, Erich K.; Harrod, Richy J. 2009. Fertilization And Seeding Effects On Vegetative Cover After Wildfire In North-Central Washington State.
- Dodson, Erich K.; Peterson, David W.; Harrod, Richy J. 2010. Impacts Of Erosion Control Treatments On Native Vegetation Recovery After Severe Wildfire In The Eastern Cascades, Usa.
- Dodson, Erich Kyle; Peterson, David W.; Harrod, Richy J. 2008. Understory Vegetation Response To Thinning And Burning Restoration Treatments In Dry Conifer Forests Of The Eastern Cascades, Usa.
- Gaines, William L.; Peterson, David W.; Thomas, Cameron A.; Harrod, Richy J. 2012. Adaptations To Climate Change: Colville And Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.
- Carnwath, Gunnar C.; Peterson, David W.; Nelson, Cara R. 2012. Effect Of Crown Class And Habitat Type On Climate-Growth Relationships Of Ponderosa Pine And Douglas-Fir.
- Dodson, Erich K.; Peterson, David W. 2009. Seeding And Fertilization Effects On Plant Cover And Community Recovery Following Wildfire In The Eastern Cascade Mountains, Usa.
- Harrod, Richy J.; Peterson, David W.; Povak, Nicholas A.; Dodson, Erich K. 2009. Thinning And Prescribed Fire Effects On Overstory Tree And Snag Structure In Dry Coniferous Forests Of The Interior Pacific Northwest.
- Peterson, David W.; Reich, Peter B. 2008. Fire Frequency And Tree Canopy Structure Influence Plant Species Diversity In A Forest-Grassland Ecotone.
- Peterson, David W.; Dodson, Erich K.; Harrod, Richy J. 2007. Assessing The Effectiveness Of Seeding And Fertilization Treatments For Reducing Erosion Potential Following Severe Wildfires.
- Harrod, Richy J.; Povak, Nicholas A.; Peterson, David W. 2007. Comparing The Effectiveness Of Thinning And Prescribed Fire For Modifying Structure In Dry Coniferous Forests.
- Peterson, David W.; Hessburg, Paul F.; Salter, Brion; James, Kevin M.; Dahlgreen, Matthew C.; Barnes, John A. 2007. Reintroducing Fire In Regenerated Dry Forests Following Stand-Replacing Wildfire..
|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 ...
|Understanding Vegetation Vulnerability to Climate Change|
This synthesis paper reviews potential climate change impacts on Pacific Northwest vegetation and provides a scientific basis for developing vul ...