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Nathanael Johnson


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Articles and Websites

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West

Wildfires Are Erasing Western Forests. Climate Change Is Making It Permanent.

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  • This article describes ecological shifts that are occurring in the Western United States, where pine forests are being replaced by shrubs and grasses, particularly after forest fires.
  • Specific examples of this shift in vegetation are identified in many states, citing scientific studies from a number of universities.
Teaching Tips


  • The images in the article are striking and help students see exactly what the author is talking about.

Additional Prerequisites

  • It might be helpful to introduce a map of the United States to show students where the article is referencing.
  • Discussing normal conditions (where fires help forests regenerate) might help students see the impacts of climate change on these ecosystems.


  • Science classes could use this article to help illustrate the negative changes happening to forest ecosystems due to global warming and climate change. 
  • Social studies classes could discuss the ramifications on human communities if wildfires burn hotter and forests are replaced by grasslands.
  • Other resources related to this topic include this lesson plan, this article, this video.
Scientist Notes
This resource is an article that examines evidence that, due to recent climate changes, wildfires that would have previously left enough trees alive to regrow forests are now killing entire forests in such a way that regrowth is no longer possible. Several examples of forest ecosystem collapse are described with examples pulled from recent science publications and interviews with scientists. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
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