Fighting drought with fire: Can prescribed fire increase forest resistance to drought?
Has prescribed fire removed enough small trees so that remaining trees have sufficient moisture to survive the extended drought? The answer to this question has profound implications for forest management over the coming decades as drought stress on our forests is expected to increase rapidly.
The severe drought extending from 2012 to 2015 across much of California provides a remarkable natural experiment to test whether prescribed fire creates conditions where forests are resistant to drought.
In this project, USGS scientists collaborate with managers at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to address this question, using several ongoing long-term forest monitoring projects that have tracked tree survivorship both with and without fire for over 30 years. The results will help inform fire and climate change adaptation planning among federal agencies, including NPS, BLM and USFWS and US Forest Service.