What Happens When There Aren’t Any Trees Left In The Forest To Make A Sound

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Photo: AC Dead Forests Not Regrowing
A firefighter holds a water hose while fighting a wildfire Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif.

An old philosophical question asks, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well, a new study done by Colorado State University poses a different query--"Is a forest still a forest if there aren't any trees to be found?"

Camille Stevens-Rumann, an assistant professor in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship at CSU, spoke to Colorado Matters about the study, which analyzed data from nearly 1,500 sites in five states — Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Montana — and measured over 63,000 seedlings across 52 wildfires that burned over the past three decades. They wanted to understand if and how changing climate over the last several decades impacted post-fire tree regeneration, a key indicator of forest resilience.

According to Stevens-Rumann, the 21st century has been markedly hotter and drier than in earlier years--one result of that, she added, is that forests are less likely to bounce back in the aftermath of wildfires.