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US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Rachel A. Loehman

Research Ecologist
Phone: 406-829-7386
Fax: 406-329-4877


Current Research

� Dynamic spatial modeling of interactions among climate changes, disturbance, and ecosystem patterns and processes� Past and future climate-wildfire interactions� Climate and disturbance effects on landscape carbon dynamics � Effects of climate change and landscape processes on wildlife habitat suitability, forest structure, net primary productivity, and landscape resilience/vulnerability� Linkage of ecosystem process models with historic and prehistoric forest and fire histories� Determination of threshold shifts, or tipping points, at which relatively small perturbations of forcing variables result in large, abrupt, and long-term changes in ecosystem properties � Effects of disturbance on landscape composition, configuration, and processes at multiple temporal and spatial scales and along marine-to-continental, latitudinal, and elevation gradients� Assessment of potential climate change impacts on wildfire risk in wildland urban interfaces through integration of a landscape fire succession model with fire probability estimations and agent-based modeling techniques � Development of bioregional synthesis documents summarizing climate change impacts on protected landscapes within the U.S., a joint project with the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program

Research Interests

My research focuses on dynamic spatial modeling of climate change and disturbance effects on ecosystem patterns and processes; climate-fire interactions; landscape carbon dynamics; fire and forest history; landscape resilience; disturbance/fire ecology and disturbance synergy; fire and forest history; and spatial scaling of fire dynamics. I am interested in the application of climate change research to land management, including vulnerability assessments and adaptive management; and in developing new methods for modeling and predicting effects of climatic variability and change on landscape dynamics by incorporating the potential for shifts in species community interactions, adaptive changes in plant physiological requirements, and changes in climatic extremes and variance.

Past Research

Climate changes are projected to profoundly influence landscape patterns and biotic community compositions either directly through increased species mortality and shifts in species distributions, or indirectly from factors such as increased wildfire activity and extent, shifting fire regimes, and pathogenesis. Shifts in climate beyond those patterns observed in the millennial record will likely result in deleterious ecological effects including changes in forest succession and structure, landscape carbon dynamics, and wildlife habitat and food availability; reduced snowpack accumulation and retention; shifts in timing and amount of surface water runoff; complexes of interacting disturbance processes, such as mountain pine beetles, blister rust, and wildfires; and altered distribution and abundance of biotic species, with associated regional extirpation and extinctions. Climate changes and climate change impacts have already been observed in some locations, and others are projected to occur across much of the globe in the coming decades. Simulation modeling provides one of the best and most powerful vehicles to investigate the dynamic interactions between climate, fire, vegetation, and potential mitigatory management activities. This research can be used to test the sensitivity of particular ecological environments (e.g. high-elevation landscapes) to climatic change, assess interacting effects of multiple disturbance agents, test the efficacy of management strategies for protecting values at risk, and explore the effects of a range of potential future climates on ecological processes. This research can assist in the development of vulnerability assessments and determinations of adaptive capacity, and can help managers focus attention and effort on those ecosystems, species, or services most at risk from climate changes and climate change impacts.

Why This Research is Important

� Forecasting effects of climate and landscape change on vector-borne diseases� Range analysis and habitat modeling and mapping for conservation of African wild dog populations, Botswana� Development of climate change, earth sciences, and spatial analysis curriculum� Analysis of distribution and function of small structures in the southwestern archaeological record� Biogeochemical modeling for carbon balance and ecosystem process simulation

Education

  • University of New Mexico, BA Anthropology/Archaeology,
  • University of New Mexico, MA Biogeography,
  • University of Montana, Missoula, Ph.D. Forestry/Ecosystems Ecology,

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Last updated on : 10/07/2014