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Recent and projected future wildfire trends across the ranges of three spotted owl subspecies under climate change

Posted date: April 08, 2019
Publication Year: 
2019
Authors: Wan, Ho Yi; Cushman, Samuel A.Ganey, Joseph L.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7: 37.

Abstract

A major task for researchers in the twenty-first century is to predict how climate-mediated stressors such as wildfires may affect biodiversity under climate change. Previous model predictions typically did not address non-stationarity in climate-fire relationships across time and space. In this study, we applied spatially-explicit non-stationary area burned projection models to evaluate recent and future climate-driven trends in area burned across the ranges of three spotted owl subspecies in the western United States. We also used high-severity fire probability models to evaluate the risk of high-severity fire in recent times. Results suggest that the proportion of area burned will increase within the range of all three subspecies under climate change, but the extent of that increase will vary both among subspecies and among ecoregions within subspecies. Similarly, the current risk of high-severity wildfire varies both among subspecies and among regions within subspecies. The Mexican spotted owl is expected to have a 13-fold increase in area burned within its range by the 2080s. The combination of increased climate-driven fire extent and risk of high-severity fire suggests a potential for large-scale future loss or modification of spotted owl habitat. We recommend conducting further studies to understand the interaction and synergistic effects of climate change and wildfire on the spotted owl, especially in regions that are understudied such as Mexico.

Citation

Wan, Ho Yi; Cushman, Samuel A.; Ganey, Joseph L. 2019. Recent and projected future wildfire trends across the ranges of three spotted owl subspecies under climate change. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7: 37.