It almost goes without saying that wildfires are increasing in both intensity and severity, leading to intense impacts on both ecosystems and society. Increasing our understanding of wild fire impacts has grown to become a major imperative of our society as we seek to understand climate change, altered landscapes, and the future of our natural world.
My research seeks to answer a subset of these wildfire impact questions, focusing on the ways and means of plant physiology responding to post-fire ecological conditions. These questions include: How does changes in canopy cover impact the recovery of the plant community? How does soil moisture change post-fire, and how does this impact plant growth across species? What are the impacts to microclimate conditions of the habitat, and how do these impact hydraulic recovery of plant species? Does the intensity of a fire impact plant species recovery, and could high intensity fire alter the species composition of these ecosystems?
To answer these questions, I'm developing a research plan that investigates a suite of plant physiological traits to understand the impact of post-fire water stress on recovering plant communities within the Central California region. I plan to couple this data set with abiotic factors such as soil moisture, burn intensity and severity, and microclimate conditions to assess how changes to the habitat may precipitate functional shifts in plant-water relations, seedling establishment, and potential shifts in ecological succession of plant species.