Southern Sierra
Science Symposium


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Anthony Westerling

Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California, Merced

Dr. Anthony Westerling is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering and Geography at UC Merced. His research interests include applied climatology; climate-wildfire interactions; statistical modeling for seasonal forecasts, paleofire reconstructions, and climate change impact assessments; and resource management and policy. Dr. Westerling holds a B.A. from University of California, Los Angeles; and a Ph.D. from University of California, San Diego. Prior to coming to Merced, he worked for six years as a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He is a principle investigator with the NOAA Regional Integrated Science and Assessment program for California, the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station, and the California Energy Commission’s California Climate Change Center.


We present preliminary results of the 2008 Climate Change Impact Assessment for wildfire in California, part of the second biennial science report to the California Climate Action Team organized via the California Climate Change Center by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Program pursuant to Executive Order S-03-05 of Governor Schwarzenegger. In order to support decision making by the State pertaining to mitigation of and adaptation to climate change and its impacts, we model wildfire occurrence monthly from 1950 to 2100 under a range of climate scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We use six climate change models (GFDL CM2.1, NCAR PCM1, CNRM CM3, MPI ECHAM5, MIROC3.2 med, NCAR CCSM3) under two emissions scenarios--A2 (C02 850ppm max atmospheric concentration) and B1(CO2 550ppm max concentration). Climate model output has been downscaled to a 1/8 degree (~12 km) grid using two alternative methods: a Bias Correction and Spatial Donwscaling (BCSD) and a Constructed Analogues (CA) downscaling. Hydrologic variables have been simulated from temperature, precipitation, wind and radiation forcing data using the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) Macroscale Hydrologic Model. We model wildfire as a function of temperature, moisture deficit, and land surface characteristics using nonlinear logistic regression techniques. Previous work on wildfire climatology and seasonal forecasting has demonstrated that these variables account for much of the inter-annual and seasonal variation in wildfire. The result of this study is monthly gridded probabilities of wildfire occurrence by fire size class. In this presentation we will describe climatic drivers of wildfire in California forests and explore the range of modeled outcomes for wildfire in the Sierra Nevada mountains.


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Nathan L. Stephenson

USGS Western Ecological Research Center, Sequoia – Kings Canyon Field Station

Nate Stephenson is a Research Ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, stationed in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks since 1979. His research has focused on climatic controls of vegetation distribution, consequences of lengthy fire exclusion on forests, use of prescribed fire as a tool for forest restoration, and environmental controls of forest dynamics. He has served as a contributing scientist on the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, the Science Advisory Board for the new Giant Sequoia National Monument, and the steering committee for the National Study of the Consequences of Fire and Fire Surrogate Treatments. Additionally, he is a founding member and steering committee member of CIRMOUNT (the Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains ). His current research efforts are primarily in concert with USGS’s Western Mountain Initiative, a global change research project centered on national parks in the mountainous western U.S.


In the twelve years since completion of the comprehensive Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP), ongoing climatic warming and its effects have become quite evident in the Sierra Nevada and across the West. Since 1979, the Sierra Nevada has warmed by roughly 2° F, with somewhat greater warming at highest elevations. Glaciers continue to melt, more precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow, and winter snowpacks are melting earlier in the spring. The consequent lengthening and deepening of the summer drought has lengthened the fire season. Plants and animals apparently also have been affected by the warming; many vertebrates have moved up in elevation, and tree mortality rates have doubled. These recent changes may foreshadow greater changes yet to come. If future warming follows current projections, over the next few decades we can expect to see profound changes in Sierra Nevada ecosystems and their services. Yet our understanding of these future changes is, at best, qualitative; we cannot predict the future with precision, and surprises are inevitable. Fortunately, this uncertainty does not mean we cannot act. Rather, it means we need to think in new ways and adopt new approaches to natural resources management.


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Constance I. Millar1*, Nathan L. Stephenson2, and Scott L. Stephens3

1USDA Forest Service, Sierra Nevada Research Center, Pacific Southwest Research Station, 800 Buchanan St., Albany, CA 94710
2U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Sequoia and Kings Canyon Field Station, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271
3Division of Ecosystem Science, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, 137 Mulford Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA., 94720-3114

Millar is a Senior Research Scientist with the PSW Research Station, Sierra Nevada Research Center (SNRC), Albany and Lee Vining, California. In her early career, she focused on population, evolutionary, and conservation genetics of western forest conifers with the Institute of Forest Genetics. In recent years she redirected her research direction within SNRC to Quaternary Sciences and to study responses of high-elevation conifers to historic and anthropogenic climate variability. Her research team now specializes in high-elevation dendrochronology, paleoecology, and climate change. She has long emphasized the applications of science in resource-management, serving as co-team leader of the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, directing CIRMOUNT (the Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains), and providing a leadership role in developing resource management strategies for a climate-change context in western North America.

Publications and description of current studies may be found at:


We offer a conceptual framework for managing forested ecosystems under an assumption that future environments will be different from present but that we cannot be certain about the specifics of change. We encourage flexible approaches that promote reversible and incremental steps, and that favor ongoing learning and capacity to modify direction as situations change. We suggest that no single solution fits all future challenges, especially in the context of changing climates, and that the best strategy is to mix different approaches for different situations. Resources managers will be challenged to integrate adaptation strategies (actions that help ecosystems accommodate changes adaptively) and mitigation strategies (actions that enable ecosystems to reduce anthropogenic influences on global climate) into overall plans. Adaptive strategies include resistance options (forestall impacts and protect highly valued resources), resilience options (improve the capacity of ecosystems to return to current conditions after disturbance), and response options (facilitate transition of ecosystems from current to new conditions). Mitigation strategies include options to sequester carbon as well as reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Priority-setting approaches (e.g., triage), appropriate for rapidly changing conditions and for situations where needs are greater than available capacity to respond, will become increasingly important in the future.


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Jan van Wagtendonk

USGS, Western Ecological research center, Yosemite Field Station

Although a native of California, Dr. van Wagtendonk grew up in Indiana, where he began his study of forestry at Purdue University. Summer seasonal work as a smokejumper for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management convinced him to finish his undergraduate work at Oregon State University, where he received his B.S. in Forest Management in 1963. After serving four and a half years as an officer in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne Division and as an advisor to the Vietnamese army, he entered graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. There Dr. van Wagtendonk obtained his M.S. in Range Management in 1968 and his Ph.D. in Wildland Resource Science with a specialty in fire ecology in 1972. From 1972 through 1993 he was employed as a research scientist with the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park. Since 1994, Dr. van Wagtendonk has been employed as a research scientist with the U. S. Geological Survey at Yosemite. His areas of research have included prescriptions for burning in wildland ecosystems, recreational impacts in wilderness, and the application of geographic information systems to resources management. His work currently focuses on the role of fire in Sierra Nevada ecosystems.


Over a decade has passed since the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project reported on the state of our knowledge about fire in the range. Additional fire history studies have added to and reinforced the information concerning the historical role of fire. Studies on the effect of season of burning have shown ramifications for invasive species, fuel reduction, and arthropod populations. The interplay multiple fires has provided insight on spatial patterns and extent of lightning fires allowed to burn under prescribed conditions. The availability of data on the location, time, and characteristics of lightning strikes enables the analysis of ignition patterns as they affect fire regimes. Perhaps the biggest advance has been made in quantifying the severity of fires using satellite imagery. This ability has led to numerous investigations on the spatial and temporal patterns of fire severity and the implications of those patterns on vegetation, animals, invasive species and fire regimes. These new frontiers in fire science allow mangers to better incorporate fire into their land management programs.


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Scott Stephens

Associate Professor of Fire Science
Co-director, UC Center for Fire Research and Outreach
Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley

Dr. Stephens is a native of California, first living in the tiny town of Scotia in Humboldt County and then Napa. He earned a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Sacramento State University in 1985, a M.S. in Bioengineering from Sacramento State in 1988, and then attended graduate school at UC Davis from 1988-1991 studying hydrology, soil science, and plant science. He earned a PhD degree in Wildland Resources Science from UC Berkeley in 1995 specializing in fire science. After graduating he worked as a post-doc researcher with the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station for 2 years and then was an assistant professor of forest ecology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo from 1997-2000. From 2000 to the present he has been a fire science professor at UC Berkeley. Stephens’ general interests are in the interactions of wildland fire and ecosystems. This includes how prehistoric fires once interacted with ecosystems, how current wildland fires are affecting ecosystems, and how future fires and management can change this interaction. He is also interested in wildland fire policy and how it can be improved to meet the challenges of the coming decades; how fire will be affected by changing climates is another research area. Stephens’ recently returned from a sabbatical in Australia where he studied fire science and fire management for 4 months and has given invited testimony to the US Congress on 3 occasions.


Fire continues to receive great attention from policy makers, the media, land managers, and the public. The 2008 California fire season has been described at a catastrophe, disaster, and something that should never happen again. However the area burned in forests in 2008 is approximately what burned pre-historically (pre 1800) and smoky skies in the summer and fall were probably the norm before Euro-American settlement. Allowing more burning with strong considerations for public health is desirable versus inevitable wildfires. Many managers in the last decade have focused on reducing fire hazards in Sierra Nevada forests. The use of prescribed fire and fire surrogates have been applied and research has been produced in the last 5 years that explores the differences and similarities of common fuel reduction treatments. A great challenge is scaling up fuel treatments to landscapes scales, a recent collaborative project between the USFS, State of California, the UC system, and other partners, is underway to investigate this issue. The use of managed lightning fires in remote areas has occurred in some Sierra forests for 30 years and information from these areas can help mangers design programs in other areas; allowing more wildland fire use and appropriate management response fire management may be the only way to re-introduce fire into Sierra ecosystems at even moderate spatial scales. Changing climates necessitates forest management strategies that increase resistance and resiliency. Desired forest conditions that explicitly include spatial variation are more likely to incorporate natural disturbances and stresses of the future. Sierran ecosystems will increasingly be managed for sustainable water yields, reduced fire hazards, and carbon sequestration although exactly how to achieve these goals is not clear. Policy development will therefore need to be flexible and adapt to ever changing conditions.


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Malcolm North

Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service

Malcolm is a research scientist with the USFS Sierra Nevada Research Center and an associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at U.C. Davis. He received his PhD at the University of Washington in 1993 studying under Dr. Jerry Franklin. His research interests are the effects of disturbance on forest ecosystem structure, composition and function.


A central challenge in managing Sierran forests has been trying to reduce fuel accumulations from decades of fire suppression without adversely impacting ecosystem attributes. In particular, fuels treatments are often slowed or stalled by concerns for maintaining or improving habitat for threatened species. Over the last decade, however, substantial ecological and silvicultural research suggests practices could be modified to reconcile some of these different objectives. Historically fire was the strongest evolutionary force shaping ecosystem processes and forest structure. Reconstruction studies suggest fire intensity and frequency topographically varied by moisture microsite within stands, and by slope position and aspect across watersheds. Managing fuels and forest structure to match these scales of variability could provide different wildlife habitats. These conditions would include areas of dense canopy cover associated with sensitive species such as the California spotted owl and Pacific fisher, and more open forest and shrub conditions favored by other species including several important small mammal prey. While fire appears essential to restoring many ecosystem processes, prescribed burns cannot be applied in some conditions. Mechanically manipulating fuels and forest structure by topography, however, may still be a cautious approach to partially mimicking historical conditions and influencing burn intensity when wildfire occurs. A silviculturist, Kevin O’Hara, is currently developing marking guidelines based on a tree’s canopy strata position rather than diameter, and varying thinning treatments by species, and micro and macro topographic location. Topographically varying fuel load and forest structure may be a cautious approach to managing Sierran forest in congruence with the disturbance force that historically shaped their ecological processes.


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John J. Battles and Robert A. York

UC Berkeley, Center for Forestry

John Battles is an associate professor of forest ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and co-director of the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on the community ecology and population dynamics of temperate forests.

Rob York is the manager of UC Berkeley’s research forests and an adjunct assistant professor of forestry in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on applied forest ecology and management of Sierran mixed conifer forests.


The pervasive impact of human enterprise on the structure and function of ecosystems poses a fundamental challenge to environmental scientists, to resource managers, and to society. We are experiencing rapid directional change in many drivers of ecosystem dynamics (Chapin et al. 2007). A new ecological world order (sensu Hobbs et al. 2006) is emerging where few of the existing rules of stewardship and management apply. Our goal as scientists and managers is to develop strategies that do something effective - that don’t just let the forests succumb to the inevitable warming climate, to the possible mass migration of species, or to the increased risks of catastrophic disturbances.

The southern Sierra Nevada, an area of approximately 30,000 km2, is a big, contiguous, forested area that is administered to a large extent by federal agencies. Given the scarcity of intervening urban or agricultural landscapes and the presence of steep environmental gradients, this ecosystem has the potential to respond resiliently to perturbations associated with global change. Species can move; disturbances can run their course; refugia can be found. In these respects, the southern Sierra Nevada ecosystem provides an ideal venue for learning.

We have no answers but we do suggest an approach. 1) The artificial boundaries between the thinkers (i.e., the basic scientists) and the doers (i.e. the forest managers) must be taken down. 2) We need to explore many alternatives simultaneously with the best available science and practice. 3) We should expect and accept some failures. 4) We must ensure that we mine failures as well as successes for insight. In this talk, we explore how such an approach might inform the specific case of conserving and managing giant sequoia groves in the southern Sierra Nevada


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Ricardo Cisneros, Andrzej Bytnerowicz and Trent Procter

US Forest Service

In 1998, Ricardo Cisneros landed a job with the U.S. Forest Service as a Biological Science Technician during a summer internship. In 2000, was hired fulltime by the U.S. Forest Service and worked as a GIS computer Specialist, Ecologist and currently as an Air Pollution Specialist. Ricardo completed a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Health in 2000, and a Master of Public Health (MPH) in 2003. In 2008, Ricardo received a Ph. D. in Environmental Systems from the University of California at Merced.

Ricardo's specialization is in atmospheric sciences, spatial analysis, and environmental health. His research interests are the effects air pollution on air quality and public health, especially in mountain communities; and the use of GIS (Geographical Information System) and spatial analysis in exposure assessment and environmental epidemiology. Ricardo conducts research that recognizes the interdependence of ecological and human health, as well as the interconnections of air, soil, water and biota. Our environment is threatened by rapid population growth and bad air quality. The goal is to study the processes that affect our environment and human health, as well as to analyze new knowledge that would contribute to the prevention of pollution through applied science and integrated research.


Air pollution generated from urban and agricultural areas have pronounced effects on forests and other ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada. Air quality is also very important for the health of people who live in the foothill and mountain communities and the people that visit and recreate in the southern Sierra Nevada national parks and forests. Recently, air quality in the southern Sierra Nevada has seriously deteriorated, increasing risks to of negative impacts on public health and forest ecosystems.

High levels of photochemical air pollutants have been measured in southern Sierra Nevada since the early 1970s. Recently, the San Joaquin Valley of California has become of the most polluted by photochemical smog areas in the United States, resulting in a significant deterioration of air quality of the downwind southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. It has also been established that air pollution originating in the San Francisco Bay Area and even Los Angeles Basin affect air quality of southern Sierra Nevada. Elevated concentrations of ozone (O3) and nitrogenous (N) air pollutants are the main hazards to forests. Ozone is a powerful oxidant, causing visible injury to plant foliage and decline of sensitive ponderosa and Jeffrey pines. Elevated concentrations of ammonia (NH3), nitrogen oxides (NOx), nitric acid vapor (HNO3), particulate nitrate (NO3-) and ammonium (NH4+) increase N deposition affecting ecosystems in many different ways. Both elevated O3 concentrations and N deposition result in impairment of carbon (C) and N cycling, stand densification, weakening of trees, increased depth of litter, enhanced flammability of forests and higher risk of fires and toxic smoke emissions, increased nitrate runoff, etc. Integrated effects of O3 and N deposition seriously damage structure and function of native ecosystems and increase their susceptibility to other factors such as drought, insect attacks, catastrophic fires, and extreme weather. In addition, elevated concentrations of O3, NOx and particulate pollutants (PM) have pronounced effects on health of residents and visitors to the southern Sierra Nevada.

In the last ten years, extensive use of passive samplers for monitoring O3 and N pollutants ambient concentrations as well as application of portable O3 monitors, have allowed for a much better understanding of air pollution status and distribution in the southern Sierra Nevada. Results of these monitoring efforts will be presented.

Southern Sierra Nevada is perhaps one of the regions most susceptible to air pollution impact from fires. Fires can significantly increase the already existing air quality problem in this region and affect possibility of using prescribed fires. Thus, potential effect of fires on air quality in the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin and southern Sierra Nevada is a serious air quality management issue.


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Nancy Grulke

US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station

Nancy Grulke is a research plant physiologist for the Pacific Southwest Research Station, US Forest Service, in Riverside, CA . She has investigated conifer and oak response to ozone, excess nitrogen deposition, and drought stress over the last 20 years.


Air pollution is an increasing stressor in Sequoia National Park. Globally, ozone has already doubled since pre-industrial times and is expected to increase an additional 50% by 2020. Ozone concentrations once associated with southern California will become typical throughout the Sierra Nevada. Low to moderate levels of ozone reduce carbon uptake and transpiration in tandem, thus conserving water at the landscape level. There is increasing evidence that moderately high and higher levels of ozone further decrease carbon uptake, but result in increased transpirational losses to the atmosphere, and less stream outflow. As ozone (and nitrogen deposition) increases, individual trees will experience more drought stress, will require a greater soil volume per tree, and translates to greater need for thinned stands. Typical visible symptoms of ozone exposure will be presented for conifers and oaks, as well as how altered physiological traits have led to ecosystem-level changes. Recommendations for mitigative forest management that will protect against both increased pollutant deposition and increased drought stress are proposed.


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Robert Klinger

USGS-BRD, Yosemite Field Station-Bishop Office

Robert Klinger is an ecologist with the USGS whose primary research interests are plant-animal interactions, invasive species (principally feral animals and non-native plants), fire, and climate change. His main focus in these areas are population and community dynamics and species-distribution modeling.


Invasive animals, plants and pathogens, especially non-native species, have had a range of undesirable effects throughout California. The Sierra Nevada has certainly not been immune to these effects, but overall their magnitude and extent have generally been less severe than in other bioregions in the state. This has likely been due to three factors; historical legacies, increasing extremes of temperature and precipitation associated with strong gradients in elevation, and reduced propagule pressure because of low and patchy human population density. Nevertheless, severe effects by invasive non-native species on particular taxa or specific ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada have been documented. For example, predation by non-native fish has suppressed populations of native amphibians, with cascading effects on the structure of aquatic vegetation communities. Non-native herbivores have facilitated colonization, establishment, and dominance of non-native plants in grasslands and oak savannas, and there is an increasing pattern of non-native grasses such as Bromus tectorum altering fire regimes in some mixed conifer forests. Moreover, as large scale agents of landscape-level change in the Sierra Nevada become more pronounced (e.g. climatic shifts) and human population density in the region increases, it is likely that rates of colonization and establishment by “new” non-native species as well as spread from existing local populations (e.g. lag effects from species such as feral pigs) will increase. In all probability this will lead to novel effects or exacerbate existing ones that humans find undesirable. However, while effects from invasive non-native species are widely regarded as being negative (“impacts”), they are actually characterized by considerable complexity. This complexity presents challenges, complications, and contradictions for developing polices and planning and implementing actions to manage invasive species. Examples from ecosystems around the world indicate that this complexity increases substantially when multiple non-native species interact, especially over long periods of time, making management outcomes difficult to predict. Faced with the likelihood of more extensive and severe effects from invasive non-native species in the Sierra Nevada, scientists and managers will need to jointly develop coordinated research strategies explicitly linked to the different phases of biological invasions (colonization, establishment, spread, and equilibrium). Key components of these strategies will include prioritizing non-native species and/or communities to focus on, predicting patterns of invasion for high priority species and/or communities, developing long-term studies that integrate observational, experimental, and modeling approaches, and comprehensively and objectively evaluating outcomes from management programs. This will lead to a better understanding of the temporal and spatial aspects of invasions in the Sierra Nevada, and provide insight into the implications for their management.


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Matthew Brooks

US Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Yosemite Field Station

Matt Brooks received his PhD in Biology from U.C. Riverside. He is currently a Research Botanist for the US Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, in El Portal California. Matt’s personal research emphasis is on the ecology and management of alien plants and fire. His research staff who are located in El Portal, Wawona, and Bishop focus on these themes, plus climate change, wildlife ecology, rare plants, ecological restoration, and the ecological effects of various land-use regimes.


Invasive species are a top priority for the effective management of public lands, but their vast numbers can make this a daunting task. Decision-support tools have been recently developed to help guide land managers in the efficient allocation of limited resources. These tools are based on the life history traits of individual species, their ecological impacts, basic ecological principles, and newly applied statistical methods. These tools are also beginning to be tailored for the colonization, spread, and equilibrium phases of biological invasions. The ultimate purposes of these efforts is to help land managers implement early detection monitoring programs, determine which species to focus management efforts on given specific situations, decide which control methods to use, and evaluate the need to integrate these efforts with other land management programs.


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David M. Graber

Chief Scientist, Pacific West Region, National Park Service

David has been an ecologist and science manager working for the National Park Service for more than 30 years. He presently serves as the Chief Scientist for the Pacific West Region of NPS, which includes the 6 western-most states and territories south of Alaska. He has long been based at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks , in the Sierra Nevada of California . During much of his career, David was a field research biologist with NPS as well as USGS, studying species-habitat relationships and exploring the use of extensive field inventories combined with GIS for improved environmental analyses. In more recent years, his efforts have been concentrated on better informing park and reserve conservation and management, as well as the management of broader mixed-use landscapes, through science. This has included the management of plant and animal populations, wilderness stewardship, biotic inventories, and environmental monitoring. Over the years, David has served on a variety of Congressional, agency, and NGO advisory panels, including the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project; Giant Sequoia National Monument Science Advisory Committee; National Wilderness Steering Committee; Sierra Nevada Forest Plan amendment Science Panel; Trust for Public Land Science Advisory Panel. He also serves on several endangered species recovery teams. He was awarded the U.S. Department of Interior Meritorious Service medal in 2000. David graduated from the University of California with a B.A, in Political Science (1970). After several years of work and adventure, he returned to U.C. Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources to obtain an M.S. (1976) and then Ph.D. (1981) in Wildland Resources Science. His doctoral dissertation was Ecology and management of black bears in Yosemite National Park.


All five of the agents of change: forest management, fire, pollutants, invasive species, and climate change; working individually are in concert, are known to or may be reasonably surmised to affect many of the terrestrial and aquatic vertebrate wildlife species native to the southern Sierra Nevada of California. For example, forest management, fire regime, and climate change all may affect stream temperatures that both directly control the viability of fish and amphibian species, and indirectly through the trophic chain. Similarly, those same three agents, and sometimes invasive plant species, affect forest structure and function that provides feeding, resting, and reproductive habitat for a broad suite of native vertebrates. Invasive animal species may compete directly with natives, or occasionally prey upon or parasitize them. The number and distribution of known biologically-active contaminants in the southern Sierra continues to increase. While most effects on vertebrates remain speculative, specific contaminants are implicated in eggshell thinning and amphibian pathologies. In the long run, climate change is likely to lead to landscape-scale changes in vegetation structure and composition, water availability and quality, and temperature that will greatly alter the potential distribution and density of most wildlife species in the region.


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Mark Nechodom

Pacific Southwest Research Station; USDA Forest Service

Mark Nechodom (nék-o-dum) is the Climate Science Policy Coordinator for the Pacific Southwest Region of the USDA Forest Service and a research scientist at the Pacific Southwest Research Station.

Dr. Nechodom is actively involved in the development of policy and research in support of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, and serves as a federal liaison to state agencies and NGOs. He also serves on several national-level climate policy efforts, and represents the Washington Office in a number of state and regional climate initiatives.

His current research uses life cycle assessment modeling (LCA) to identify the economic and environmental impacts of biomass-to-energy production. He also leads teams of researchers focused on carbon cycling in forest ecosystems, including wildfire effects and greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the last decade, he served as lead Social Scientist for the Sierra Nevada Framework, which directs management of 11 million acres of national forest land in California. Nechodom also led the social science team involved in the Lake Tahoe Basin Science Assessment, a major synthesis of scientific information related to the environmental conditions of the basin, as well as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s 20-year regional plan revision for 2007.

In the 1990s, he established the Natural Resources Policy and Education Program at California State University, Sacramento, and subsequently co-founded and directed the Land Use and Natural Resources Program at the University of California, Davis. He is currently a visiting scholar and occasional lecturer at the University of California, Davis.

Nechodom spent several years as an agricultural and environmental policy adviser, consultant and researcher in Mexico and Latin America working with clients such as USAID, the United Nations and other NGO development agencies.

Nechodom holds a Ph.D. in political science and environmental policy from the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Southern Sierra ecosystems provide a number of ecosystem goods and services, many of which face significant change over the coming decades. Moreover, the capacity for social, institutional and policy responses will be important as increasing population and resource use puts pressure on the larger system. This presentation will synthesize some of the human systems responses that are likely under coming changes in the system, and assess the institutional capacities and policy frameworks that lead to different future outcomes in the region.

Last Modified: Mar 28, 2013 03:31:43 PM
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