Kimberley T. Davis, University of Montana, Missoula
Marcos D. Robles, The Nature Conservancy, Tuscon
Kerry B. Kemp, The Nature Conservancy, Portland
Philip E. Higuera, University of Montana, Missoula
Teresa Chapman, The Nature Conservancy,Arlington
Kerry L. Metlen, The Nature Conservancy, Portland
Jamie L. Peeler, University of Montana, Missoula
Kyle C. Rodman, Northern Arizona University
Travis Woolley, The Nature Conservancy, Flagstaff
Robert N. Addington, The Nature Conservancy, Boulder
Brian J. Buma, University of Colorado, Denver
Alina C. Cansler, University of Washington
Michael J. Case, The Nature Conservancy, Seattle
Brandon M. Collins, University of California - Berkeley
Jonathan D. Coop, Western Colorado University
Solomon Z. Dobrowski, University of Montana, Missoula
Nathan S. Gill, Texas Tech University
Collin Haffey, New Mexico Forestry Division
Lucas B. Harris, The Pennsylvania State University
Brian J. Harvey, University of Washington
Ryan D. Haugo, The Nature Conservancy, Portland
Matthew D. Hurteau, University of New Mexico
Dominik Kulakowski, Clark UniversityFollow
Caitlin E. Littlefield
Lisa A. McCauley, The Nature Conservancy, Tuscon
Nicholas Povak, US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station
Kristen L. Shive, The Nature Conservancy, Sacramento
Edward Smith, The Nature Conservancy, Sacramento
Jens T. Stevens, University of New Mexico
Camille S. Stevens-Rumann, Colorado State University
Alan H. Taylor, The Pennsylvania State University
Alan J. Tepley, Cal Poly Humboldt University
Derek J.N. Young, University of California, Davis
Robert A. Andrus, Washington State University
Mike A. Battaglia, Rocky Mountain Research Station, US Forest Service
Julia K. Berkey, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Sebastian U. Busby, Portland State University
Amanda R. Carlson, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Marin E. Chambers, Colorado State University - Fort Collins
Erich Kyle Dodson, Rocky Mountain Research Station, US Forest Service
Daniel Donato, University of Washington
William M. Downing, Oregon State University
Paula J. Fornwalt, Rocky Mountain Research Station, US Forest Service
Joshua S. Halofsky, University of Washington
Ashley Hoffman, Clark University
Andrés Holz, Portland State University
Jose M. Iniguez, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service
Meg A. Krawchuk, Oregon State University
Mark R. Krieder, University of Montana, Missoula
Andrew J. Larson, University of Montana, Missoula
Garrett W. Meigs, Oregon State University
John Paul Roccaforte, Northern Arizona University
Monica T. Rother, University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Hugh Safford, University of California, Davis
Michael Schaedel, The Nature Conservancy, Missoula
Jason S. Sibold, Colorado State University
Megan P. Singleton, Northern Arizona University
Alexandra K. Urza, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service
Kyra D. Clark-Wolf, University of Montana, Missoula
Monica G. Turner, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Document Type



Increasing fire severity and warmer, drier postfire conditions are making forests in the western United States (West) vulnerable to ecological transformation. Yet, the relative importance of and interactions between these drivers of forest change remain unresolved, particularly over upcoming decades. Here, we assess how the interactive impacts of changing climate and wildfire activity influenced conifer regeneration after 334 wildfires, using a dataset of postfire conifer regeneration from 10,230 field plots. Our findings highlight declining regeneration capacity across the West over the past four decades for the eight dominant conifer species studied. Postfire regeneration is sensitive to high-severity fire, which limits seed availability, and postfire climate, which influences seedling establishment. In the near-term, projected differences in recruitment probability between low- and high-severity fire scenarios were larger than projected climate change impacts for most species, suggesting that reductions in fire severity, and resultant impacts on seed availability, could partially offset expected climate-driven declines in postfire regeneration. Across 40 to 42% of the study area, we project postfire conifer regeneration to be likely following low-severity but not high-severity fire under future climate scenarios (2031 to 2050). However, increasingly warm, dry climate conditions are projected to eventually outweigh the influence of fire severity and seed availability. The percent of the study area considered unlikely to experience conifer regeneration, regardless of fire severity, increased from 5% in 1981 to 2000 to 26 to 31% by mid-century, highlighting a limited time window over which management actions that reduce fire severity may effectively support postfire conifer regeneration. © 2023 the Author(s).

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Publication Date






First Page







climate change, ecological transformation, post-fire regeneration, vegetation transition, wildfire

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.

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Geography Commons



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