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Carbon

Science Spotlights

Sampling streamwater in watersheds of the Hayman Fire
Severe wildfires remove vegetation and organic soil layers and expose watersheds to erosion which can transport large quantities of soil and ash to nearby rivers and streams. But once the burned areas have stabilized, do severe wildfires have any longer-lasting effects on watersheds or water quality? This study follows the Hayman Fire, 2002, Colorado, and shows that yes, there are long-term effects.
Standard wood stakes are used to evaluate wood decomposition rates within and among sites.
Maintaining woody debris on forest sites is critical for maintaining carbon stores and modeling the rate of decay helps managers understand tree growth and and carbon sequestration.
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...
Figure 2. Sampling the mineral soil.
Many U.S. forests contain soils with high rock content, and quantities of stored carbon and nitrogen. There is a need to calculate changes in carbon and nutrient pools in soils, but current sampling methods are not completely reliable in rocky soils. Managers and climate change researchers are using estimates of carbon pools to indicate soil productivity, alteration of biological activity, impacts from fire, or carbon storage potential. 
Restoring abandoned mine sites with no environmental hazard or chemical contamination can be expensive because of the inhospitable (hot, dry) environment.  However, the large number of abandoned mine sites located across the west make it imperative to begin restoration activities to help shade streams, reduce erosion, provide habitat, and generally improve soil properties. 
Research Ecologist Justin DeRose measuring ring widths to crossdate and digitize tree-ring features. Photo by Lawrence Lam.
Forest fungi in the Armillaria genus comprise destructive root-disease pathogens and beneficial decomposers. It is critical to understand worldwide distributions of Armillaria species to assess invasive threats posed by Armillaria species. This collaborative work with scientists from 15 countries focused on DNA-based analyses of Armillaria species from the Northern Hemisphere.
A handful of biochar-amendment nursery substrate being tested for its potential to grow high-quality native plants for restoration.
Forest and range soils in the western United States are in need of restoration for a variety of reasons (e.g., overgrazing, fire, health). Disposing of the woody slash after restoration cuttings has been problematic for many years, and open burning has often been the easiest method for reducing wildfire risk. However, this damages the soil, limits successful regeneration on the burn sites, and encourages invasive weeds. Creating biochar is one...
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...
A world map displaying the density of ModelMap downloads
Working in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, we have access to a valuable collection of detailed information about forests on thousands of sample plots distributed across the country. This information is used to produce summaries of forestland characteristics for a variety of geographic areas such as states or individual national forests. We wanted a simple tool to extend this sample data and make detailed maps of forest...
Close-up of pelletized biochar.
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists and their partners with the U.S. Forest Service Missoula Technology and Development Center, Washington State University, and John Jump Trucking, Inc., developed and tested a high-capacity biochar spreader to reduce the cost and facilitate the application of biochar as a soil amendment.

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