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 L. Peterson

David L. Peterson

Emeritus Scientist
400 N 34th St., Suite 201
United States

Contact David L. Peterson

Current Research

I currently work with national forests throughout the western United States to assess the effects of climatic variability and change on natural resources, then identify adaptation options that can reduce potentially negative effects. This work uses an all-lands approach that includes other federal agencies and stakeholders across broad landscapes working together to ensure long-term sustainable resource management. Assessments are science-based and peer-reviewed, and resource managers take the lead on developing broad adaptation strategies and specific on-the-ground adaptation tactics. Adaptation is directed at both natural resources (water, fisheries, vegetation, wildlife, etc.) and fine tuning of public land management. I continue to study the effects of climatic variability and change on forest ecosystems in the western United States and recently completed a synthesis on fire-climate interactions for the Pacific Northwest.

Research Interests

  • Environmental stress on forest ecosystems
  • Climate effects on fire ecology
  • Ecosystem management on large spatial and temporal scales
  • Natural resource management

Past Research

For 30 years, my research group has employed a combination of empirical studies and modeling to investigate the response of mountain ecosystems to climatic variability and change. Regional-scale research has focused primarily on the ecology of subalpine forest ecosystems, effects of climatic variability on tree growth and regeneration, and fire-climate interactions. Recent research focuses on fire-climate relationships across the western United States, and adaptation to climate change on federal lands. I have played a lead role in assessing the effects of climate change on fire and natural resources for the 2014 and 2018 National Climate Assessments, and have published two books on the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems.

Why This Research is Important

Managing wildfire and hazardous fuels is one of the greatest challenges facing resource managers on federal lands in the western United States. The quantitative tools I developed provide the scientific basis for fuels management and hazard reduction across millions of acres of dry forest. Climate change adaptation is critical in the face of rising temperature, because of direct effects on natural resources and indirect effects of increasing disturbances. The approaches I developed provide processes, tools, and information that facilitate adaptation on national forests and other federal lands and support sustainable resource management.


  • University of Illinois, Ph.D. Forest Ecology 1980
  • University of Illinois, M.S. Botany 1977
  • University of Illinois, B.S. Zoology 1976

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Climate change in the Rocky Mountains

Major effects likely for the natural resources in the northern Rockies, although adaptation options are available to reduce negative outcomes.


Responding to Climate Change on National Forests

A new guidebook provides a scientific foundation and framework for preparing for climate change


Last updated on : 02/10/2021