The Klamath Ecoregion of Oregon and California is an ideal model system for studying non-linear ecosystem dynamics and for applying this knowledge toward improved science-based ecosystem management. 

Stabilizing feedbacks between a mixed-severity fire regime and successional dynamics maintain two distinct ecological communities in the region: a high-biomass conifer forest state and a low-biomass shrub-chaparral-hardwood (SCH) state. These feedbacks are closely linked to climate and operate at local and landscape scales to affect regional scale biome distributions. 

The goal of the proposed research is to understand if anticipated changes in climate may alter the disturbance-recovery dynamics and force a regional-scale critical transition from mature conifer forest to SCH.

The research plan includes three elements that are key to understanding the potential for such a transition: 

(1) development of general mathematical models

(2) field research to characterize the climate-dependence of post-fire recovery; 

(3) process-based simulations to characterize the interactive roles of climate, fire, and management in shaping the region’s ecological communities.