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Climate Change

Projects

Thousand cankers disease is threatening walnut trees (Juglans spp.) throughout the United States. The disease is caused by the fungal pathogen Geosmithia morbida and the associated insect vector the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis). Declining walnut trees were noticed in the western United States in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the disease was not described until 2008. Throughout the last decade, thousand cankers disease has expanded. Currently, it compromises native and planted walnut stands throughout most of the western United States, several eastern states within native range of the black walnut, as well as Italy. 
Forbs are an integral component of terrestrial ecosystems and critical to pollinator health. However, we know very little about the biology of native forbs. Such knowledge is a prerequisite to developing restoration programs that use diverse forb species in restoration seeding.
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists partnered with a company called Apex Resource Management Solutions (commonly known as “Apex”) to use a software-based ecological simulation tool called ST-Sim, which is short for state-and-transition simulation model. Using computer-aided modeling, land management teams can use ST-Sim to document or justify management actions in forthcoming forest plans and NEPA documentation. ST-Sim allows managers to ask landscape-wide “what-if” questions based on different management regimes and land treatments while estimating interactions with expected climate changes.
Ecosystems are increasingly threatened by fire, insects, disease, invasive species, drought, and climate change. Shifting landscapes and interactive disturbances challenge land managers who must meet particular land management objectives. Three concurrent activities are helping managers access adaptation strategies and tactics that can address ongoing challenges to forest and grassland productivity, resilience and restoration.
Using a newly developed decision support tool, RMRS scientist Megan Friggens and collaborators have conducted case study assessments in National Forests in the SW. Working closely with National Forest staff, they assessed the vulnerability of several landscapes to the interactive effect of changing fire and climate regimes. During interactive assessment sessions, they also quantified the potential effectiveness of management strategies for reducing landscape vulnerability.
The concepts of ecological resilience and resistance to invasive annual grasses have been used to develop an understanding of sagebrush ecosystem response to disturbances like wildfire and management actions to reduce fuels and restore native ecosystems. A multi-scale framework that uses these concepts to prioritize areas for conservation and restoration at landscape scales and to determine effective management strategies at local scales has been developed by Chambers and her colleagues. Regional SageSTEP (Sagebrush Treatment Evaluation Project) data coupled with west-wide AIM (Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring) data provide a unique opportunity to refine the predictors of resilience and resistance and extend the existing multi-scale framework effort.
The researchers are completing a series of riparian and groundwater-dependent ecosystem assessments for National Forests in the USFS Intermountain Region. Each assessment summarizes drivers, stressors, and current condition of these systems in relation to the natural range of variation within each forest. The reports directly inform the assessment phase of forest plan revision and continue to be produced on a schedule in line with the Region’s forest planning process.
Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in Support of Front Range National Forests and Colorado National Grasslands for Forest Plan Revision, Plan Amendments, and Project-Level Planning.
In a collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Wildland Fire Sensor Challenge was conducted to solicit and evaluate next-generation air measurement technology in pursuit of an easy to deploy, reliable, and accurate on-demand smoke monitoring network. During the initial phase of the challenge, three prototype systems were identified for further development and testing. Second generation sensors will be evaluated by the USFS/EPA research team in spring 2019.
Located on the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest, this project uses a common garden approach to determine which plant species are best suited for supporting pollinator communities and are most appropriate for restoration activities. Findings from the study will be used to 1) improve pollinator habitat, 2) increase seed stocks of native flowering species for use in restoration, 3) inform U.S. seed zone guidelines and 4) help predict plant-pollinator response to climate change. This carries on a long tradition at the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest of using common gardens in botanical research. As far back as the 1920s and 30s common gardens were used to study evapotranspiration rates of native herbaceous and shrub species as well as evaluate the potential use of certain species for erosion control. Some of these the same gardens are now being restored nearly a century later for use in this study.

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