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Drought Impacts on Forest and Rangelands in the United States: A State-of-the-Science Synthesis

Photo of Drought-related changes in disturbance regimes and hydrologic processes will present significant challenges to natural resource managers. J.S. Quick, Colorado State University, www.bugwood.org.Drought-related changes in disturbance regimes and hydrologic processes will present significant challenges to natural resource managers. J.S. Quick, Colorado State University, www.bugwood.org.Snapshot : Recent droughts have contributed to insect outbreaks, tree death, reduced tree growth, increased wildfire risk and increased area burned by wildfire. These disturbances affect forest biogeochemical cycling and hydrologic processes. When combined with warmer air temperatures, droughts could have an even greater impact on forests and ranges. Forest Service scientists and their research partners recently edited a large-scale synthesis on the prospect of increasing frequency and severity of future droughts. Management actions can either mitigate or exacerbate the effects of drought. This synthesis establishes the scientific foundation needed to manage forests for drought resiliency and adaptation.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Vose, James 
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1100

Summary

Droughts have shaped forests and rangelands for millennia, but whether current species and ecosystems will be able to endure more severe future droughts is unknown. Recent droughts have contributed to large-scale insect outbreaks, forest die-off and reduced growth, and increased wildfire risk and area burned, all of which impact forest biogeochemical cycling, and hydrologic processes. The prospect of increasing frequency and severity of future droughts is the motivation for a recent large-scale synthesis edited by Forest Service scientists and their research partners. More than 77 scientists from the Forest Service and other federal agencies, from research institutes, and from universities contributed to the report.

Focal areas include drought characterization; drought impacts on forest processes and disturbances such as insect outbreaks and wildfire; and consequences for forest values. Drought will present challenges for natural resource managers as they deal with the implications of changing forest conditions and disturbance regimes. The knowledge developed in these large-scale syntheses form the foundation for developing and evaluating management options.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Charles H. Luce, Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Toral Patel-Weynand, Washington Office
  • James S. Clark, Duke University

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