"In these model we don't consider what the vegetation will do under these changing regimes," said Smithwick. "The forest has been stable for thousands of years, but it looks like it will face changes by 2050."
These changes also would alter the fire regime because some areas might become more permanent grasslands or forests of other trees, such as Ponderosa pine, might emerge. Long before the fire regimebecomes more frequent, the vegetation and possibly the animals in the area may have to adapt to severe fire events.
Smithwick is not suggesting that fire policy in Yellowstone should shift, and she is certain that the park with its geysers and mud pots will still remain, but climate change will bring changes to the forests and perhaps to the human and animal uses of the park.
"The lodgepole pine has surprised us over and over, so maybe it will be resilient enough to persist," she said.
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