The Albuquerque Lab is one of seven locations in the Rocky Mountain Research Station's interior West that make up the Grassland, Shrubland, and Desert Ecosystems Program.
Southwestern grassland ecosystems fulfill such functions as watersheds, wildlife habitat, recreation, and grazing. Past resource management practices, climate change, the introduction of non-native animal and plant species, and urbanization and development have caused damage to grassland and riparian ecosystems. The suppression or exclusion of periodic fires that once were part of natural ecological processes has also contributed to degradation of the ecosystems. RMRS Albuquerque Lab is researching ways to restore and sustain damaged grassland and riparian ecosystems and recover sensitive and endangered species of those ecosystems. Specifically, we are:
- finding new ways and information to help managers restore and sustain damaged grassland and desert ecosystems.
- evaluating how fire, climate change, and other factors affect the condition of southwestern grasslands and maintain the diversity of native plant and animal species while controlling invasive and woody plant species.
- determining how natural and human influences affect the survival of sensitive plant and animal species.
- examining public preferences concerning Forest Service fire and fuels management programs.
- exploring how traditional economic practices, such as small-scale ranching, maintain cultural heritage and economic viability among forest users in northern New Mexico.
We are also studying how damage to riparian habitats has altered hydrological, biological, ecological, and fire dynamics, thus endangering native plant and animal species. Specifically, we are:
- evaluating the effects of range and watershed management practices on montane meadows, riparian areas, and associated fish and wildlife species; and determining how to restore natural conditions.
- researching the effects of wild and prescribed fires, fuel removal, and control of invasive and woody plants on southwestern riparian ecosystems and watersheds.
- determining the factors that affect and limit the distribution, abundance, and population dynamics of selected threatened, endangered, and sensitive (TES) plant and animal species in southwestern riparian systems and finding ways to recover their habitats and populations.