Investigating Die-Offs of Western Woodlands

Western North American forests are experiencing a rapid increase in severe die-offs from droughts, insect attacks and fires. This increase in mortality has contributed to lumber mills closing, as well as to other, more far-reaching, economic impacts.

Since 2013, OCCRI’s Forest Mortality, Economics, and Climate (FMEC) project has been studying the processes behind these die-offs. Out of the project will come a framework for projecting where die-offs may occur in the future.

The researchers also have been evaluating various management options that could help mitigate or potentially avoid future die-offs using climate scenarios, models, and sophisticated statistics. The Community Land Model (CLM), for example, is one tool for projecting forest responses to various inputs. Two new modules of CLM — a beetle-attack simulation and an economic simulation of forest productivity and mortality — are adding important new dimensions to the work.

Crowd sourcing comes into the picture, too., a component of, uses the donated idle time of ordinary personal computers to generate a “super-ensemble” (many thousands of climate model configurations) to understand how small changes affect atmospheric and vegetation models.

Over the remaining four years of the project, FMEC researchers will continue to explore the relationships between climate; forest disturbances, productivity, and mortality; and economics using a variety of innovative techniques.


Photo Caption: Fireweed grows in a burned area. (Photo Credit: George Wesley & Bonita Danneels, some rights reserved.) 

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