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DATE: December 12, 2017

SNIP: Bigger, hotter wildfires are ravaging forests and burning them to the ground more frequently as the climate gets hotter and drier. Now a new study shows that in some places in the U.S., those forests may never grow back.

That adds to evidence that amid climate change, some forest landscapes — including those in Canada — can change dramatically after being burned.

The new U.S. study looked at 1,500 forest sites affected by 52 wildfires in five states in the U.S. Rockies between 1985 and 2015. It found overall decreases in the amount of tree regrowth since 2000 compared to before 2000 due to warmer, drier conditions.

After 2000, no seedlings were growing back at about one third of sites, compared to 15 per cent of sites that burned before 2000, said Camille Stevens-Rumann, lead author of the study published today in the journal Ecology Letters.

“We often think about climate change as something that we’re going to feel the effects of in the future. The truth is wildfires are facilitating those changes happening sooner,” Stevens-Rumann told CBC News. “And I think that was a really big surprise to all of us to see it even over just a 30 year period.”