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Science Spotlights

Big sage mountain brush
An unprecedented conservation effort is underway across 11 Western states to address threats to sagebrush ecosystems and the many species that depend on them. Today, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior released the Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome (Part 2). The Science Framework provides a transparent, ecologically responsible approach for making policy and management decisions...
Whitebark pine sapling, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho
Forest inventory data show that more than half of all standing whitebark pine trees in the U.S. are dead. Regeneration of whitebark pine is widespread, especially in lodgepole pine stands, which suggests that active management of whitebark pine should target mixed-species stands to take advantage of natural regeneration. 
Photo of a fen with floating mat on the water. The mat has Carex limosa and Sphagnum mosses
Mountain fens (peat-accumulating wetlands) are groundwater-dependent habitats (i.e. groundwater dependent ecosystems) protected under the Clean Water Act and other federal mandates in the United States. There is increasing interest in documenting and monitoring the occurrence and characteristics of fens. In addition to supporting unusual plants, fens are sites of carbon and water storage and long-term ecological stability, since the underlying...
National Genomics Center stream water filter setup for eDNA sample collection
The National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation pioneered development of eDNA sampling of aquatic environments at their laboratory in Missoula, MT. The Center has partnered with dozens of National Forests, as well as other state, federal, tribal, and private natural resource organizations to assist in the collection and processing of eDNA samples. Thousands of eDNA samples are collected annually and constitute a rapidly growing...
Mountain big sagebrush. Photo by Jeanne Chambers, USDA Forest Service RMRS
Historically, the sagebrush biome was the most widespread non-forest vegetation type in temperate North America. Compared with historic conditions, current sagebrush ecosystems are reduced in extent, fragmented, degraded, and face multiple threats (Welch 2005), including altered fire regimes (USDI 2015).
The global composite index of the wildfire-water risk shows spatial distribution of risk from wildfire impacts on water resources. About half of the area globally (51%) is at moderate risk (values between 20 and 40).
Freshwater resources are vital to humans and our natural environment. Water systems around the world are at risk resulting from population growth, urban development, ecosystem degradation, climate change, and over the past several years, from large catastrophic wildfires. Scientists developed the first global evaluation of wildfire risks to water security bringing us a step closer to a global database that maps key wildfire-water risk indicators...
White pine blister rust on southwestern white pine
Collaborative research is quantifying adaptive variation in tree species, specifically in southwestern white pine, across the western United States. This research predicts changes in species distribution and their ability to adapt in the face of global change by combining population-wide genomic data collection, common garden manipulative experiments, pathogen resistance trials, and simulation modeling.
Figure 1Map of Borneo showing areas of forest loss between 2000 and 2010 in yellow, areas of forest persistence from 2000 to 2010 in green, and areas that were not forest in 2000 in black.
A collaborative team, led by RMRS Research Ecologist Samuel Cushman, has produced a substantial breakthrough in advancing predictive modeling of drivers and patterns of deforestation. The method combines multi-scale optimization with machine-learning predictive modeling to identify the drivers of deforestation and map relative future deforestation risk.  
More than one-sixth of the world’s population rely on seasonal snow for water. In the western U.S., nearly three-quarters of the annual streamflow that provides the water supply arrives as spring and summer melt from the mountain snowpacks. SnowEx is a science campaign that combines on-the-ground measurements with aerial and remote sensing to improve measurements and techniques for identifying the amount of water in snow. 
Example of traumatic resin ducts formed during 1997, 1998, and tangentially during 1999, in response to a large spruce beetle outbreak.
The formation of traumatic resin ducts in Engelmann spruce represents an important induced defense in response to environmental perturbations. The occurrence and strength of resin ducts, in particular traumatic resin ducts, in annually resolved tree rings could be used to reconstruct a tree’s structural damage association with natural disturbances.

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