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Climate, Vegetation and Landscapes

Paleoecology of Great Basin Pinyon-Juniper Communities

This is being studied to provide sufficient information to determine ecological processes and relationships in Great Basin ecosystems. RMRS scientists investigate how those relationships will be affected by climate change, predict site responses to management alternatives, and develop recommendations for maintaining site integrity. The best source of information for understanding potential changes is the study of vegetation responses to past climate change. Evidence from the past changes provides the data for testing predictive models of future climate change. Arid and semi-arid Great Basin ecosystems are potentially some of the most fragile to global change. Studies combining paleoecological records and current distribution of selected plant species permit estimation of their environmental limits. Thus, the western Great Basin offers unique opportunities for these kinds of analyses. See the Great Basin Research and Management Partnership for additional information and view the publications on the paleo-climate and vegetation of the Great Basin.

Contact Jeanne Chambers or Robin Tausch for additional information.

Climate Change Effects on Historical Range of Variability of Two Large Landscapes in Central Utah

Land managers need to be able to generate landscape composition and structure reference time series under historical, current, and future climate conditions to effectively prioritize, design, and implement current landscape level restoration treatments. RMRS scientists are conducting a simulation study to generate reference conditions for three climate scenarios and three fire regime scenarios using the landscape fire succession model LANDSUM. LANDSUM is being parameterized and initialized using spatial data generated from the LANDFIRE prototype project. The variation of simulated burned area and dominant vegetation types will be compared with the current landscape to determine departure. These departures will then be compared across the two climate scenarios to determine the implications of changing fire regimes and climates to fire management.

Contact Bob Keane for additional information.

Regional Dynamic Vegetation Model for the Southern Colorado Plateau: A Species-Specific Approach

RMRS scientists and cooperators are working on a recently-funded project that will modify the SIMPPLLE landscape model to address the impact that climate change and disturbances such as bark beetles, wildlife and exotics species will have on the distribution and abundance of vegetation species.

Contact Jimmie Chew for additional information.

Plant-Climate Relationship Models for the Western United States

RMRS scientists have developed plant-climate relationship models to explore species shifts under climate change in the western U.S. They are also beginning to modify the Forest Vegetation Simulator to use climate variables for predicting forest growth and development. View the current and potential distribution of lodgepole pine.

Contact Nick Crookston for additional information.