Portland State Magazine Fall 2022

MAPPING A FOREST’S RECOVERY THANKS TO CLIMATE CHANGE, high-elevation forests in the Pacific Northwest are burning more frequently and expansively than in the recent past, leaving heavily scarred landscapes. Some experts question whether they can recover without human intervention. But according to a new study by PSU researchers, it may not always be necessary—or even wise—for humans to step in.The research, which was published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, examined the role of “fire refugia,” green islands of living trees that remain after a forest fire, in forest regeneration following large, severe fires in the High Cascade mountains. Using a combination of satellite imaging and field work, the researchers were able to determine how different characteristics of fire refugia—including tree species, age, and local climate—affected their ability to regenerate the surrounding forestland.The results can help determine when human intervention in the form of tree replanting is warranted, where replanting efforts should be targeted, and what species should be prioritized.This is important to know since replanting can be expensive and overstocked forests, particularly those stocked with tree species that are available in nurseries, can reduce habitat quality or pose a future fire hazard. —SUMMER ALLEN ON THE FRONT LINES OF CLIMATE CHANGE As the effects of climate change are felt more widely and regularly, Portland State University alumni and faculty are leading research into the driving forces and future impacts of a warming planet. SEASONS CHANGE NEARLY 200 YEARS AGO, schools across New York set out to collect data on the state’s climate by recording temperature measurements and observations: when the robins were first seen, when the red maples bloomed, when the wheat harvest began.The data helped farmers plan for the local growing season. Two centuries later, a Portland State alum is using that same data to shed light on the effects of climate change on our seasons. Kerissa Fuccillo Battle PhD ’18 led a multidisciplinary team to compare the historical dataset with similarly collected data across New York from 2009 to 2017.The group’s findings, published in the Journal of Ecology, showed that the majority of the 36 plants analyzed flowered and leafed out earlier than in the centuries past.The effects were even more pronounced in urban areas.The accelerated timing poses risks for some species’ survival, Battle said, and can create a cascade of negative impacts for bees and organisms that rely on them. But knowing which species are more at risk can help inform conservation efforts. Interested in helping track our changing seasons? Find out how at usanpn.org/natures_notebook. —CRISTINA ROJAS UNDER PRESSURE LAST YEAR’S record-breaking heatwave, recent droughts, and the 2020 Labor Day megafires that swept across Oregon and Washington share a contributing factor: atmospheric ridges, elongated regions of high pressure typically associated with warm, dry conditions. And their effects may be growing more severe. To study key drivers of atmospheric ridges and how they will be affected by a warming climate, researchers from Portland State and Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV) are teaming up, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation. In a recent study published in the Journal of Climate, Paul Loikith, associate professor of geography and director of PSU’s Climate Science Lab, and Deepti Singh, director of WSUV’s Climate Extremes and Societal Impacts Lab, found that while ridges that produce heat waves won’t necessarily become more common over the Pacific Northwest in the future, when ridges do occur, the weather associated with them will be warmer.The project’s findings will inform climate planning and adaptation measures. —CRISTINA ROJAS FEDERICA GIUSTI SEBASTIAN BUSBY PAUL LOIKITH FALL 2022 // 9