Forests influence climate and sustain life globally. Trees sequester carbon emissions that cause climate warming, support much of the planet’s biodiversity, and provide essential services such as fuel, food, and clean water and air. Due to climate change, increasing disturbances, and deforestation, many forests are threatened. Winslow Hansen works to understand where and why forests are at risk, and how we can avoid catastrophic losses.
Hansen uses experiments and field observation to reveal how forests are responding to environmental change. He is also developing novel techniques that integrate remote sensing and computer simulations to model forest response – scaling from individual trees up to entire biomes. Together, these complementary approaches paint a picture of current and future forest health across backyards, watersheds, and the planet.
This science is relevant to managers and policy makers tasked with stewarding forests during a time of profound change. Hansen often brings stakeholders into his research process so that results are immediately injected into decision making. For instance, Hansen worked with managers at Grand Teton National Park to evaluate whether different management strategies might reduce wildfire risk to people and help conserve some of America’s last remaining wildlands. Hansen is building on this work to determine where people and forests may be most threatened by fires across the western United States, including California.