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To better predict forest futures, we need to know how they bounce back after fire — and why they sometimes don’t.

Many forests in the Western US are adapted to live with and recover from fire. But as wildfires become larger, more severe, and more frequent, forests’ ability to bounce back is eroding. Some are permanently transitioning to grasslands and shrublands. Knowing when, where, and why those transitions occur is important for predicting future wildfire behavior, and for understanding the consequences for carbon storage, biodiversity, water supply, and other ecosystem services.


We are exploring:

  • Why do some forests transition to non-forest ecosystems after fire?

  • Which species come back after fires, and why?

  • With higher levels of CO2 in the air, will trees be better able to survive droughts in the West?

Our post-fire landscape surveys and field experiments will provide novel data to ensure that our custom-built model accurately simulates these relationships and more. The model — and the knowledge that underpins it — will be vital to practitioners who want to weigh the long-term benefits and consequences of fire management decisions they make today, and to project the future of fire and forests at the regional scale.



Anna Trugman

University of California, Santa Barbara

Christopher Kibler

University of California, Santa Barbara

Winslow Hansen

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Lara Kueppers

University of California, Berkeley

Brian Harvey

University of Washington

Anna Trugman
University of California, Santa Barbara

When we combine everyone's toolsets, the hope is that we can make a really serious dent in understanding how to live with wildfire on the landscape in a more sustainable way in the future.

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