Effects of drought on U.S. Forests and Rangelands: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis | Fire & Drought


Littell, J.S., D.L. Peterson, K.L. Riley, Y. Liu, and C.H. Luce. 2016. Fire and drought. Pages 135-154 in J.M. Vose, J.S. Clark, C.H. Luce, and T. Patel-Weynand (eds.), Effects of drought on U.S. Forests and Rangelands: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report WO-GTR-93b.


This assessment provides input to the reauthorized National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Climate Assessment (NCA), and it establishes the scientific foundation needed to manage for drought resilience and adaptation. Focal areas include drought characterization; drought impacts on forest processes and disturbances such as insect outbreaks and wildfire; and consequences for forest and rangeland values. Drought can be a severe natural disaster with substantial social and economic consequences. Drought becomes most obvious when large-scale changes are observed; however, even moderate drought can have long-lasting impacts on the structure and function of forests and rangelands without these obvious large-scale changes. Large, stand-level impacts of drought are already underway in the West, but all U.S. forests are vulnerable to drought. Drought-associated forest disturbances are expected to increase with climatic change. Management actions can either mitigate or exacerbate the effects of drought. A first principal for increasing resilience and adaptation is to avoid management actions that exacerbate the effects of current or future drought. Options to mitigate drought include altering structural or functional components of vegetation, minimizing drought-mediated disturbance such as wildfire or insect outbreaks, and managing for reliable flow of water.

See Chapter 7 for Fire and Drought.