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Science Spotlights

Ponderosa pine regeneration is sensitive to moisture availability and have limited seed dispersal. Ponderosa forest recovery can be delayed following disturbance. Drier and hotter conditions may reduce ponderosa regeneration (Photo by R. Addington, TNC).
Understanding the structure of understory vegetation in forests is critical for estimating carbon stocks, fuel loading, and assessing wildlife habit. Using nationally collected inventory data shows promise in providing better estimates and assessments in these areas over large geographical regions.
Prescribed crown fire at Manning Creek, Fishlake National Forest. Photo credit: Roger Ottmar. Photo taken: June 2019
The broad consensus among fire and fuel scientists and managers is that we need to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations on many more acres to mitigate the risk and severity of wildfires. But mechanical fuel treatments are expensive! Prescribed fire is a more cost effective tool to reduce fuel loads and to restore and maintain fuel conditions to something closer to the historical norm.
The photo shows a land management personel in a grassland setting in the Chihuahuan Desert with a controlled burn in the foreground.
Using the best available science and tools, we can project the effects of today’s management actions on tomorrow’s non-forest vegetation assemblage, carbon, and productivity while considering changing climates. 
Tree planting after a wildfire on the Boise National Forest
The number of global initiatives for forest restoration, and the scope of these initiatives, continues to increase. An important tool for meeting objectives of these global initiatives is reforestation, achieved by natural processes or by tree planting. Worldwide, organizations are challenged to most efficiently and effectively direct resources to the most critical reforestation needs. Currently in the United States, the reforestation efforts of...
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.