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Fire and climate change: conserving seasonally dry forests is still possible

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The destructive wildfires that occurred recently in the western US starkly foreshadow the possible future of forest ecosystems and human communities in the region. With increases in the area burned by severe wildfire in seasonally dry forests expected to result from climate change, judicious, science-based fire and restoration strategies will be essential for improving the resilience of forest ecosystems. We argue that fire use treatments (including prescribed fires and managed wildfires) as well as restoration thinning strategies, rather than conflicting with existing environmental objectives, will provide numerous co-benefits, including enhanced biodiversity, increased water availability, greater long-term and more sustainable carbon storage, improved forest resilience and adaptation to climate change, and reduced air pollution. Timber production, however, may have to be better aligned with fire management goals to achieve these co-benefits. Taking immediate actions today to promote positive ecological outcomes in seasonally dry forests should be a primary focus of management, particularly in the western US.

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