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Department of Plant Sciences




Supervisor: Dr Adam Pellegrini


Global warming is resulting in novel fire regimes in many ecosystems—either occurring in systems that historically did not experience fire, or becoming more frequent and intense in ecosystems that experienced more mild fire regimes. Perhaps the best examples of novel wildfire regimes are in the Sierra Nevada forests in California, USA, where a single wildfire in 2020 killed ~10% of the global population of giant sequoias. Sequoias evolved to deal with frequent and low intensity fires, but climate change has resulted in a regime shift in the types of fires in the Sierras, with unimaginable consequences for the ecosystem. This project will evaluate the carbon consequences of novel megafires and ecosystem collapse. The student will conduct field sampling in areas with different histories of wildfires in the Sierras and combine these data with remote sensing measurements of fire severity. Finally, these data will be used to evaluate current models of ecosystems to determine if they can predict the implications of the new era of megafires.

The skills learned: soil biogeochemical measurements (carbon chemistry, soil structure, and microbial activity), remote sensing methods, and modelling using process-based and statistical methods.