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Title: Projected Impact of Mid-21st Century Climate Change on Wildfire Hazard in a Major Urban Watershed outside Portland, Oregon USA
Characterizing wildfire regimes where wildfires are uncommon is challenged by a lack of empirical information. Moreover, climate change is projected to lead to increasingly frequent wildfires and additional annual area burned in forests historically characterized by long fire return intervals. Western Oregon and Washington, USA (westside) have experienced few large wildfires (fires greater than 100 hectares) the past century and are characterized to infrequent large fires with return intervals greater than 500 years. We evaluated impacts of climate change on wildfire hazard in a major urban watershed outside Portland, OR, USA. We simulated wildfire occurrence and fire regime characteristics under contemporary conditions (1992–2015) and four mid-century (2040–2069) scenarios using Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5. Simulated mid-century fire seasons expanded in most scenarios, in some cases by nearly two months. In all scenarios, average fire size and frequency projections increased significantly. Fire regime characteristics under the hottest and driest mid-century scenarios illustrate novel disturbance regimes which could result in permanent changes to forest structure and composition and the provision of ecosystem services. Managers and planners can use the range of modeled outputs and simulation results to inform robust strategies for climate adaptation and risk mitigation.  more » « less
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