After the mega-fires that devastated forests in the western United States, scientists decided to find out which forests would need help to restore and which would not. The research results are published in the journal Ecological Applications.
The new Post-Fire Spatial Recovery Prediction Tool for Coniferous Trees (POSCRPT) helps forest managers identify, in the weeks following a disaster, where natural tree regeneration is possible and where artificial planting seedlings may be required to restore the most vulnerable areas of the forest.
The study found that conifers are less likely to recover from fires when seedlings are exposed to drier climates, especially in lowland forests, which are already stressed by drought. Mixed forests are more successful in temperate climates.
A team from the University of California, Davis (USGS), collected data on reforestation after fires that occurred between 2004 and 2012 and data on seed growth in the forest over 18 years. USGS ecologists have collected and identified over 170,000 seeds from hundreds of special traps. Scientists combined this data with multispectral satellite images, forest structure maps, climate, and other environmental data to create spatial models of seed availability and recovery rates for various coniferous tree groups, including pine and spruce.
In recent years, forest managers have used a prototype of this tool to understand better which areas need assistance with restoration. The new update includes information on the post-fire climate and seed production. It includes an easy-to-use web interface that is expected to improve the accuracy and usability of the tool.