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Science Spotlights

Remote camera captures a wolverine as it approaches a researcher's trap.
Forest Service scientists and their research partners use a novel approach that includes trapping and fitting wolverines with GPS collars that accurately plot their movements in areas of high winter recreation. Then, on a volunteer basis, snowmobilers, back-country skiers, and other recreationists carry GPS units in the same areas used by wolverines. Resulting data show how wolverines respond to winter recreation in terms of their movements,...
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is a partner in helping to protect or restore relationships between residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation and the Mission Mountain landscape.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station, in partnership with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of Montana, and the University of Leeds, UK, are working together to protect or restore relationships between residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation and the Mission Mountain landscape within the reservation.
Healthy sagebrush common garden at Great Basin Experimental Range.
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Sulphur-flower buckwheat seed.
Faced with extensive disturbances and climatological challenges that are rapidly changing ecosystems, scientists and land managers require the seeds of today to provide the plants of tomorrow. Researchers are currently studying more than 50 plant species in order to select best adapted plants to current and future climate conditions.
Concerns about climate change effects on cold-water biodiversity sparked broad multi-agency collaborative efforts throughout the American West. U.S. Forest Service research teams led development of massive interagency databases that now enable precise mapping of critical habitats and species distributions in streams flowing through 101 National Forests.
Forest plot data is matched to gridded landscape data from LANDFIRE using the random forests method. The output consists of a grid of the IDs for the best-matching plot for each pixel.
Maps of the number, size, and species of trees in forests across the western United States are desirable for a number of applications including estimating terrestrial carbon resources, tree mortality following wildfires, and for forest inventory. However, detailed mapping of trees for large areas is not feasible with current technologies. We used a statistical method called random forests for matching forest plot data with biophysical...
One year after the 2011 Miller Creek fire in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico. Photo by Sean Parks
In recent decades, many landscapes across the western United States have experienced substantial fire activity. These fires consume fuels and alter vegetation structure, which may be able to serve as a natural fuel treatment in the same manner as mechanical treatments or prescribed fire. Knowing that fire occurrence, size, and severity are limited by recent wildfires should provide greater flexibility and confidence in managing fire incidents...
Maps of the likelihood of unsuppressed ignitions spreading outside the wilderness study area boundary for each month of ignition in simulated fire seasons.
A goal of fire management in wilderness is to allow fire to play its natural ecological role without intervention. Unfortunately, most unplanned ignitions in wilderness are suppressed, in part because of the risk they might pose to values outside of the wilderness. We capitalize on recent advances in fire risk analysis to demonstrate a risk-based approach for revealing where unplanned ignitions in wilderness pose little risk to non-wilderness...
Drylands view from a Sky Mountain
Drylands, characterized by scarcity of water, globally support about two billion people. While most of these people live in developing nations, drylands in North America cover an extensive area and have a variety of uses. Drylands are experiencing noticeable stress and degradation from increasing populations and a changing climate, so it is important to know the current conditions and changes that have occurred over time for sustainable...
Armillaria mellea is a parasitic fungus that frequently causes root disease in forests of the US.  Image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Mars 2002 under a Creative Commons License
Growing forests take greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. National forests must account for how natural and management-oriented disturbance processes affect carbon storage as an ecosystem benefit.  Although it doesn’t always cause large, eye-catching areas of mortality, root disease likely affects carbon storage by reducing tree growth and regeneration over vast areas.  However, no previously available tools allowed...