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  1. Abstract Patterns of energy and available moisture can vary over small (<1 km) distances in mountainous terrain. Information on fuel and soil moisture conditions that resolves this variation could help to inform fire and drought management decisions. Here, we describe the development of TOPOFIRE, a web-based mapping system designed to provide finely resolved information on soil water balance, drought, and wildfire danger information for the contiguous United States. We developed 8-arc-second-resolution (~250 meter) daily historical, near real-time, and 4-day forecast radiation, temperature, humidity, and snow water equivalent data and used these grids to calculate a suite of drought and wildfire danger indices. Large differences in shortwave radiation and surface air temperature with aspect contribute to greater snow accumulation and delays in melt timing on north-facing slopes, delaying fuel conditioning on shaded slopes. These datasets will help advance our understanding of the role of topography in wildland fire spread and ecological effects. Integration with national programs like the Wildland Fire Assessment System, the Wildland Fire Decision Support System, and drought early warning systems could support more proactive management of wildland fires and refine the characterization of drought in mountainous regions of the United States.
  2. 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.more »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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