Ecosystem response to disturbance is influenced by environmental conditions at a number of scales. Changes in climate have altered fire regimes across the western United States, and have also likely altered spatio-temporal patterns of post-fire vegetation regeneration. Fire occurrence data and a vegetation index (NDVI) derived from the NOAA Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) were used to monitor post-fire vegetation from 1989 to 2007. We first investigated differences in post-fire rates of vegetation regeneration between ecoregions. We then related precipitation, temperature, and elevation records at four temporal scales to rates of post-fire vegetation regeneration to ascertain the influence of climate on post-fire vegetation dynamics. We found that broad-scale climate factors are an important influence on post-fire vegetation regeneration. Most notably, higher rates of post-fire regeneration occurred with warmer minimum temperatures. Increases in precipitation also resulted in higher rates of post-fire vegetation growth. While explanatory power was slight, multiple statistical approaches provided evidence for real ecological drivers of post-fire regeneration that should be investigated further at finer scales. The sensitivity of post-disturbance vegetation dynamics to climatic drivers has important ramifications for the management of ecosystems under changing climatic conditions. Shifts in temperature and precipitation regimes are likely to result in changes in post-disturbance dynamics, which could represent important feedbacks into the global climate system.
- Climate change
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)