Ponderosa forests struggle in the face of Southwest megadrought

June 7, 2023

As temperatures increase and prolonged drought continues, a new study of ponderosa forests in the Four Corners region underscores the importance of summer monsoons.

Image of desiccating ponderosa pine trees against a sunset sky

Paul Szejner

Ponderosa pine trees are one of the most ubiquitous conifer species in western North America, extending from southern British Columbia all the way down to northern Mexico. In the American Southwest, winter snowmelt and summer rains play a critical role in these forests' survival, but the 23-year megadrought may have these semi-arid trees at the end of their rope, according to new research by University of Arizona scientists.

"Forests in the Southwest are no strangers to droughts but have largely been able to cope with periods of drought throughout history," said Brandon Strange, lead author of a new study examining the role of monsoon precipitation in ponderosa pine forests across the Four Corners region. "However, the current megadrought is the most severe since the year 800 CE."

Read the full UA News story.