By Lisa Marshall

Principal investigators
Kyle Rodman; Tom Veblen

Australian Research Council; Colorado Mountain Club Foundation; John W. Marr Ecology Fund; National Science Foundation; University of Colorado Boulder; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

With wildfires becoming more frequent across the West, people ask: What will become of our forests?

A University of Colorado Boulder-led study found that when forests burn across the Southern Rocky Mountains, many will not grow back and might convert to grasslands and shrublands. 

“We project that postfire 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 geography PhD student.

Previous CU Boulder studies looked at individual fire sites and found that forests recovered slowly or not at all. Even 15 years later, up to 80% of the scorched plots still contained no new trees.

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