Establishing an Initial Revegetation Trajectory from the Kneow to Aid Predicting Future Intermountain Ecosystem Response

Authors: Dawna Cerney*, Youngstown State University
Topics: Mountain Environments, Biogeography, Global Change
Keywords: Kenow Wildfire, Ecological Stability, Wildfire, Climate Change, Resiliency
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the American Mountain West historic postfire revegetation produces forests communities resilient to large scale fire. However, recent decades of increased temperature and reduced annual precipitation have resulted in environmental conditions that have increased size and intensity of forest fires. The combination of projected drought conditions and consequential larger scale fires are theorized to reduce the resiliency of forests to maintain heterogeneous age and species structures, in addition to shifting plant communities towards ecosystems that are less fire resistant. For centuries Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada, has been comprised of multiple ecosystems, producing high biodiversity and thus ecological stability. These forest structures have been resilient to large forest fires yet are reliant regular small-scale fire occurrence for renewal. The Kenow Wildfire of 2017 was 350 times greater in extent than typical fires for the region and consumed more than 85% of The Park’s vegetation. The combination fire extent and continued climate warming trends may result in an inability to renew the ecosystems to their historic long-term biotic structure and limit future fire resiliency. Initial analysis of multi-year longitudinal study examined the emerging vegetation response to this large wildfire. Modeling the nascent plant assemblages across distinct ecosystems in conjunction with the fire intensity conditions initially indicate potential resilience to future fires, with some locations showing deviation in plant assemblage from the norm. These anomalous locations may have reduced future resilience to fire. Longitudinal modeling will determine how all initial community structures across The Park develop under climate warming.

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