Remote sensing reveals multi-decadal losses of tree cover in California driven by increasing fire disturbance and climate stress [article]

Jonathan A Wang, James T Randerson, Michael L. Goulden, Clarke Knight, John B Battles
2021 bioRxiv   pre-print
Forests provide natural climate solutions for sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change yet are threatened by increasing temperatures and disturbance. Accurate information on vegetation dynamics is lacking in some regions with forest carbon offset programs and dense forests like California. To address this, we combined remote sensing observations with geospatial databases to develop annual maps of vegetation cover (tree, shrub, herbaceous) and disturbance type (fires, harvest, and
more » ... die-off) in California at 30 m resolution from 1985 to 2021. California lost 3783 km2 of its tree cover area (5.5% relative to initial cover). Early gains in tree cover area were more than offset by fire-driven declines, resulting in greater shrub and herbaceous cover area. Fires and tree cover area loss occurred where temperatures were high or increasing, whereas tree cover gain occurred in cooler areas. Disturbance and warming are threatening the integrity of California's forests and its carbon offsets program.
doi:10.1101/2021.11.30.470651 fatcat:ja6deax555ayfmfynuw7kwrlfu