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  1. Abstract Expanding the global protected area network is critical for addressing biodiversity declines and the climate crisis. However, how climate change will affect ecosystem representation within the protected area network remains unclear. Here we use spatial climate analogs to examine potential climate-driven shifts in terrestrial ecoregions and biomes under a +2 °C warming scenario and associated implications for achieving 30% area-based protection targets. We find that roughly half of land area will experience climate conditions that correspond with different ecoregions and nearly a quarter will experience climates from a different biome. Of the area projected to remain climatically stable, 46% is currently intact (low human modification). The area required to achieve protection targets in 87% of ecoregions exceeds the area that is intact, not protected, and projected to remain climatically stable within those ecoregions. Therefore, we propose that prioritization schemes will need to explicitly consider climate-driven changes in patterns of biodiversity. 
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    Abstract Climate change is anticipated to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts, with major impacts to ecosystems globally. Broad-scale assessments of vegetation responses to drought are needed to anticipate, manage, and potentially mitigate climate-change effects on ecosystems. We quantified the drought sensitivity of vegetation in the Pacific Northwest, USA, as the percent reduction in vegetation greenness under droughts relative to baseline moisture conditions. At a regional scale, shrub-steppe ecosystems—with drier climates and lower biomass—showed greater drought sensitivity than conifer forests. However, variability in drought sensitivity was considerable within biomes and within ecosystems and was mediated by landscape topography, climate, and soil characteristics. Drought sensitivity was generally greater in areas with higher elevation, drier climate, and greater soil bulk density. Ecosystems with high drought sensitivity included dry forests along ecotones to shrublands, Rocky Mountain subalpine forests, and cold upland sagebrush communities. In forests, valley bottoms and areas with low soil bulk density and high soil available water capacity showed reduced drought sensitivity, suggesting their potential as drought refugia. These regional-scale drought-sensitivity patterns discerned from remote sensing can complement plot-scale studies of plant physiological responses to drought to help inform climate-adaptation planning as drought conditions intensify. 
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    Researchers are increasingly examining patterns and drivers of postfire forest recovery amid growing concern that climate change and intensifying fires will trigger ecosystem transformations. Diminished seed availability and postfire drought have emerged as key constraints on conifer recruitment. However, the spatial and temporal extent to which recurring modes of climatic variability shape patterns of postfire recovery remain largely unexplored. Here, we identify a north–south dipole in annual climatic moisture deficit anomalies across the Interior West of the US and characterize its influence on forest recovery from fire. We use annually resolved establishment models from dendrochronological records to correlate this climatic dipole with short-term postfire juvenile recruitment. We also examine longer-term recovery trajectories using Forest Inventory and Analysis data from 989 burned plots. We show that annual postfire ponderosa pine recruitment probabilities in the northern Rocky Mountains (NR) and the southwestern US (SW) track the strength of the dipole, while declining overall due to increasing aridity. This indicates that divergent recovery trajectories may be triggered concurrently across large spatial scales: favorable conditions in the SW can correspond to drought in the NR that inhibits ponderosa pine establishment, and vice versa. The imprint of this climatic dipole is manifest for years postfire, as evidenced by dampened long-term likelihoods of juvenile ponderosa pine presence in areas that experienced postfire drought. These findings underscore the importance of climatic variability at multiple spatiotemporal scales in driving cross-regional patterns of forest recovery and have implications for understanding ecosystem transformations and species range dynamics under global change. 
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  6. Abstract

    Changes in individual climate variables have been widely documented over the past century. However, assessments that consider changes in the collective interaction amongst multiple climate variables are relevant for understanding climate impacts on ecological and human systems yet are less well documented than univariate changes. We calculate annual multivariate climate departures during 1958–2017 relative to a baseline 1958–1987 period that account for covariance among four variables important to Earth’s biota and associated systems: annual climatic water deficit, annual evapotranspiration, average minimum temperature of the coldest month, and average maximum temperature of the warmest month. Results show positive trends in multivariate climate departures that were nearly three times that of univariate climate departures across global lands. Annual multivariate climate departures exceeded two standard deviations over the past decade for approximately 30% of global lands. Positive trends in climate departures over the last six decades were found to be primarily the result of changes in mean climate conditions consistent with the modeled effects of anthropogenic climate change rather than changes in variability. These results highlight the increasing novelty of annual climatic conditions viewed through a multivariate lens and suggest that changes in multivariate climate departures have generally outpaced univariate departures in recent decades.

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  7. Abstract

    Increased wildfire activity combined with warm and dry post-fire conditions may undermine the mechanisms maintaining forest resilience to wildfires, potentially causing ecosystem transitions, or fire-catalyzed vegetation shifts. Stand-replacing fire is especially likely to catalyze vegetation shifts expected from climate change, by killing mature trees that are less sensitive to climate than juveniles. To understand the vulnerability of forests to fire-catalyzed vegetation shifts it is critical to identify both where fires will burn with stand-replacing severity and where climate conditions limit seedling recruitment. We used an extensive dendrochronological dataset to model the influence of seasonal climate on post-fire recruitment probability for ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir. We applied this model to project annual recruitment probability in the US intermountain west under contemporary and future climate conditions, which we compared to modeled probability of stand-replacing fire. We categorized areas as ‘vulnerable to fire-catalyzed vegetation shifts,’ if they were likely to burn at stand-replacing severity, if a fire were to occur, and had post-fire climate conditions unsuitable for tree recruitment. Climate suitability for recruitment declined over time in all ecoregions: 21% and 15% of the range of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir, respectively, had climate conditions unsuitable for recruitment in the 1980s, whereas these values increased to 61% (ponderosa pine) and 34% (Douglas-fir) for the future climate scenario. Less area was vulnerable to fire-catalyzed vegetation shifts, but these values also increased over time, from 6% and 4% of the range of ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir in the 1980s, to 16% (ponderosa pine) and 10% (Douglas-fir) under the future climate scenario. Southern ecoregions had considerably higher vulnerability to fire-catalyzed vegetation shifts than northern ecoregions. Overall, our results suggest that the combination of climate warming and an increase in wildfire activity may substantially impact species distributions through fire-catalyzed vegetation shifts.

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    We review science-based adaptation strategies for western North American (wNA) forests that include restoring active fire regimes and fostering resilient structure and composition of forested landscapes. As part of the review, we address common questions associated with climate adaptation and realignment treatments that run counter to a broad consensus in the literature. These include: (1) Are the effects of fire exclusion overstated? If so, are treatments unwarranted and even counterproductive? (2) Is forest thinning alone sufficient to mitigate wildfire hazard? (3) Can forest thinning and prescribed burning solve the problem? (4) Should active forest management, including forest thinning, be concentrated in the wildland urban interface (WUI)? (5) Can wildfires on their own do the work of fuel treatments? (6) Is the primary objective of fuel reduction treatments to assist in future firefighting response and containment? (7) Do fuel treatments work under extreme fire weather? (8) Is the scale of the problem too great – can we ever catch up? (9) Will planting more trees mitigate climate change in wNA forests? and (10) Is post-fire management needed or even ecologically justified? Based on our review of the scientific evidence, a range of proactive management actions are justified and necessary to keep pace with changing climatic and wildfire regimes and declining forest successional heterogeneity after severe wildfires. Science-based adaptation options include the use of managed wildfire, prescribed burning, and coupled mechanical thinning and prescribed burning as is consistent with land management allocations and forest conditions. Although some current models of fire management in wNA are averse to short-term risks and uncertainties, the long-term environmental, social, and cultural consequences of wildfire management primarily grounded in fire suppression are well documented, highlighting an urgency to invest in intentional forest management and restoration of active fire regimes. 
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  9. Climate change is increasing fire activity in the western United States, which has the potential to accelerate climate-induced shifts in vegetation communities. Wildfire can catalyze vegetation change by killing adult trees that could otherwise persist in climate conditions no longer suitable for seedling establishment and survival. Recently documented declines in postfire conifer recruitment in the western United States may be an example of this phenomenon. However, the role of annual climate variation and its interaction with long-term climate trends in driving these changes is poorly resolved. Here we examine the relationship between annual climate and postfire tree regeneration of two dominant, low-elevation conifers (ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir) using annually resolved establishment dates from 2,935 destructively sampled trees from 33 wildfires across four regions in the western United States. We show that regeneration had a nonlinear response to annual climate conditions, with distinct thresholds for recruitment based on vapor pressure deficit, soil moisture, and maximum surface temperature. At dry sites across our study region, seasonal to annual climate conditions over the past 20 years have crossed these thresholds, such that conditions have become increasingly unsuitable for regeneration. High fire severity and low seed availability further reduced the probability of postfire regeneration. Together, our results demonstrate that climate change combined with high severity fire is leading to increasingly fewer opportunities for seedlings to establish after wildfires and may lead to ecosystem transitions in low-elevation ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests across the western United States.

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