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    Description

    During the past 2 decades, the forests of the Interior West of the United States have been impacted by drought, insects, disease, and fire. When considered over periods of 5-10 years, many forest types have experienced periods of negative net growth, meaning that mortality exceeded gross growth at the population scale. While many of these changes have been attributed almost solely to climate change, the factors contributing to widespread mortality, and their interactions, are much more complex. For example, the dominant forest age class distribution, in which a high percentage of acreage is in the 80- to 120-year age class, is largely the result of Euro-American settlement of the area in the late 1800s. This history, coupled with aggressive fire suppression during the past century, has resulted in disproportionate areas of forest being in a highly susceptible condition. For example, most of the lodgepole pine population is at high risk from mountain pine beetle attack, and much of the aspen population is becoming senescent and increasingly susceptible to succession by conifer species. In this presentation, we analyze the status and trends of Interior West forests, and highlight some of the important, and in some cases unexpected, changes.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Shaw, J.; Long, J. 2014. Is the western United States running out of trees? The International Forestry Review. 16(5): 348.

    Keywords

    drought, insects, disease, fire, climate change, negative net growth, mortality

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/49055