Forests Scorched by Wildfire Unlikely to Recover, May Convert to Grasslands


Previous CU Boulder studies have looked at individual fire sites and found that forests recovered slowly or not at all.

With flames racing across hundreds of square miles throughout Colorado and California this summer and a warming climate projected to boost wildfire activity across the West, residents can’t help but wonder what our beloved forests will look like in a few decades.

A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study offers an unprecedented glimpse, suggesting that when forests burn across the Southern Rocky Mountains, many will not grow back and will instead convert to grasslands and shrublands.

“We project that post-fire recovery will be less likely in the future, with large percentages of the Southern Rocky Mountains becoming unsuitable for two important tree species—ponderosa pine and Douglas fir,” said lead author Kyle Rodman, who conducted the study while a PhD student in the Department of Geography.

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Image via University of Colorado at Boulder