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Paula J. Fornwalt

Research Ecologist

Research Ecologist

Address: 
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Phone: 
970-498-2581
Contact Paula J. Fornwalt

Current Research

(1) Examine the impacts of wildfire and postfire rehabilitation activities on forest overstory and understory composition and structure; (2) Clarify how, when, and why overstory and understory plant communities change as a result of ongoing insect and disease epidemics; (3) Investigate the impacts of forest management activities (e.g., slash pile burning, salvage logging) on native and exotic plants

Research Interests

My research activities address the impacts of natural and human disturbances on plant populations and communities in Rocky Mountain forests.

Education

  • University of Delaware, Newark, DE, B.S., Environmental Science, 1996
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, M.S., Forest Sciences, 1999
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, Ph.D., Ecology, 2009
  • Professional Experience

    Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO
    2010 to present

    Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO
    2002 to 2010

    Biological Science Technician, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO
    1999 to 2002

    Publications

    Brown, Peter M.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Gannon, Benjamin; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Julian, Chad; Cheng, Antony S., 2015. Historical (1860) forest structure in ponderosa pine forests of the northern Front Range, Colorado
    Rhoades, Charles (Chuck) C.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Paschke, Mark W.; Shanklin, Amber; Jonas, Jayne L., 2015. Recovery of small pile burn scars in conifer forests of the Colorado Front Range
    Dickinson, Yvette L.; Addington, Rob; Aplet, Greg; Babler, Mike; Battaglia, Mike A.; Brown, Peter; Cheng, Tony; Cooley, Casey; Edwards, Dick; Feinstein, Jonas; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Gibbs, Hal; Matonis, Megan S.; Pelz, Kristen A.; Regan, Claudia, 2014. Desirable forest structures for a restored Front Range
    Ortega, J.; Turnipseed, A.; Guenther, A. B.; Karl, T. G.; Day, D. A.; Gochis, D.; Huffman, J. A.; Prenni, A. J.; Levin, E. J. T.; Kreidenweis, S. M.; DeMott, P. J.; Tobo, Y.; Patton, E. G.; Hodzic, A.; Cui, Y. Y.; Harley, P. C.; Hornbrook, R. S.; Apel, E. C.; Monson, R. K.; Eller, A. S. D.; Greenberg, J. P.; Barth, M. C.; Campuzano-Jost, P.; Palm, B. B.; Jimenez, J. L.; Aiken, A. C.; Dubey, M. K.; Geron, C.; Offenberg, J.; Ryan, Michael G.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Pryor, S. C.; Keutsch, F. N.; DiGangi, J. P.; Chan, A. W. H.; Goldstein, A. H.; Wolfe, G. M.; Kim, S.; Kaser, L.; Schnitzhofer, R.; Hansel, A.; Cantrell, C. A.; Mauldin, R. L.; Smith, J. N., 2014. Overview of the Manitou Experimental Forest Observatory: Site description and selected science results from 2008 to 2013
    Fornwalt, Paula J., 2013. Invasive Species Science Update (No. 6)
    Fornwalt, Paula J.; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Stohlgren, Thomas J., 2010. Impacts of mixed severity wildfire on exotic plants in a Colorado ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir forest
    Fornwalt, Paula J.; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh, 2009. Effects of past logging and grazing on understory plant communities in a montane Colorado forest
    Binkley, Dan; Kashian, Daniel M.; Boyden, Suzanne; Kaye, Margot W.; Bradford, John B.; Arthur, Mary A.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Ryan, Michael G., 2006. Patterns of growth dominance in forests of the Rocky Mountains, USA
    Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Stoker, Jason M.; Dennis, Chuck, 2003. Field guide to old ponderosa pines in the Colorado Front Range
    Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Stoker, Jason M.; Dennis, Chuck, 2003. Identification and ecology of old ponderosa pine trees in the Colorado Front Range
    Fornwalt, Paula J.; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Stoker, Jason M.; Stohlgren, Thomas J., 2003. Non-native plant invasions in managed and protected ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir forests of the Colorado Front Range
    Fornwalt, Paula J.; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Stoker, Jason M., 2002. Using the Forest Vegetation Simulator to reconstruct historical stand conditions in the Colorado Front Range
    Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Stoker, Jason M., 2001. Cheesman Lake-a historical ponderosa pine landscape guiding restoration in the South Platte Watershed of the Colorado Front Range
    Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Stoker, Jason M.; Fornwalt, Paula J., 2001. Landscape patterns of montane forest age structure relative to fire history at Cheesman Lake in the Colorado Front Range
    Many of today’s fires in Colorado Front Range forests (ponderosa pine/ Douglas-fir) are burning more severely than they did historically, and some people are concerned that burned understory plant communities will not recover without intervention. In 2002, Colorado’s Hayman Fire burned research plots used to sample understory plant communities, providing an opportunity to address these concerns. We found that burning promoted diverse and productive native understory communities, even in severely burned areas, suggesting that concerns may be unwarranted.
    Fire managers have increased their use of mastication, the on-site disposal of shrubs and small-diameter trees through chipping and shredding, a practice that alters the chemical and physical conditions of the forest floor and may influence vegetation regrowth for years or decades. We evaluated a network of 18 masticated sites to assess the effects of mastication treatments on plants and soils, and convey how these effects vary over time.
    The development of ecological restoration treatment prescriptions based on historical forest structure is needed to inform management activities within the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) and other restoration efforts. Our goal is to provide managers with locally derived, historically realistic, and climatically sustainable targets for desired future stand and landscape conditions for the Colorado Front Range and South Dakota Black Hills. 
    Many of today’s fires in ponderosa pine dominated forests are burning more severely than historical ones, generating concern that understory plant communities will not recover without intervention.  There are also concerns that fires will facilitate the establishment and spread of non-native species.  In 2002, Colorado’s Hayman Fire burned pre-existing understory vegetation plots and provided an opportunity to address these concerns. 
    Numerous factors influence the establishment and growth of tree seedlings after high-severity wildfires. Understanding spatial patterns and environmental conditions influencing ponderosa pine and aspen regeneration post-wildfire can help managers monitor natural recovery.