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Climate Change


Forest surveys alone cannot predict species vulnerability as they cannot determine if the remaining healthy trees are at risk for disease or if they have heritable genetic resistance to support future populations. This project takes range-wide common garden (198 families) and artificial inoculation with Cronartium ribicola (causal agent of white pine blister rust) in order to better undertand host population vulnerability and sustainability.
Researchers are using existing long-term studies to answer questions about overstory and understory carbon accumulation in western larch forests.Four western larch stands were remeasured in the summer of 2015. Stand growth and carbon sequestration were evaluated by estimating the carbon pools of live trees, understory vegetation, dead woody material, and the forest floor (decomposing plant material).
Many range and mine land sites are degraded because of disturbance and overgrazing. Researchers applied biochar — made by burning woody material in the absence of oxygen — to range and mine sites and observed improved soil water holding capacity, organic matter, and carbon sequestration, as well as increased production of native forbs and grasses. This research will continue for approximately 3-5 years to determine the longer-term impacts of biochar additions on different soil textures, climatic regimes, and plant species.
Revegetation through organic amendments is increasingly essential to help promote better organic soil and rehabilitation on abandoned mining sites across the northwestern United States. RMRS scientists and their collaborators used biochar, wood chips, and biosolids alone and in combination to determine if they can be used to restore soil physical, chemical, and biological functions on abandoned mines in forests across the western United States. In addition, they are evaluating the best methods for revegetation (seeding vs. planting) so that mineral soil organic matter can be rebuilt over time.
The cumulative area of LiDAR collections across multiple ownerships in the northwestern United States has reached the point that land managers of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other stakeholders would greatly benefit from a strategy for how to utilize LiDAR for regional aboveground biomass inventory. The need for Carbon Monitoring Systems (CMS) can be more robustly addressed by using not only available NASA satellite data products, but also commercial airborne LiDAR data collections.
There is an urgent need to develop adaptive management strategies that foster ecosystem resilience to the impact of climate change and enable forests to adapt to uncertain future conditions. This project utilizes a scientist-land manager partnership to develop, implement, and measure ecological responses in a large-scale replicated study of three adaptive management treatments strategies in the dry mixed conifer forest type.
Over one million acres will receive treatments across the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GBLCC) to conserve greater sage-grouse habitat over the next decade. These treatments are intended to restore native sagebrush habitat by reducing encroachment of juniper, infestations of invasive weeds, and wildfire. This project will evaluate the effects of vegetation treatments on population connectivity, genetic diversity and gene flow of wildlife species across the full extent of the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative.
Climate is a major driver of spatial and temporal patterns in primary productivity. Relating trends in ecosystem productivity to climate across the United States will enhance our understanding of how climate change will influence ecosystem productivity in the future and support climate change adaptation and mitigation activities.
Forest disturbance reconstructions provide a valuable record of factors leading up to change or stabilization in forest stands. Reconstructions in Colorado usually focus on fire effects, although a few have recorded beetle disturbances. Examining the evidence left by bark beetle disturbance and understanding interactions between insect disturbances and climate events may help guide management of post-disturbance forests.
Plants are a vital component of biodiversity but are facing a high rate of extinction worldwide. This research investigated plant density of a regionally rare threatened species, Packera franciscana, in order to detect current population size trends as well as establish a baseline to detect future climate change effects. Research on population stability and flowering or fruiting rates is critically important to the recovery and long-term management of P. franciscana.