Fire and Ecological change in the YNP/GTNP

Presented by Cathy Whitlock, Director, Montana Institute on Ecosystems. Video

In the last 30 years, the western U.S. has experienced a number of sever and large fire events, starting with the 1988 fires in Yellowstone. Why? To what extent are these fires unprecedented versus business as usual? To what extent is current fire activity caused by climate change versus a legacy of Smokey Bear and past forest management policies? These questions are of considerable scientific concern as well as public debate. Cathy Whitlock, a paleoecologist, will describe Yellowstone’s climate, fire and forest history over the last 15,000 years, drawing on her years of research piecing together the clues preserved in the sediments of lakes. This paleo-information is critical for understanding how people, climate change, and fires have shaped present-day landscapes in the Greater Yellowstone region, as well as for assessing the region’s vulnerability to climate change in the future.