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Climate Change


The Cascabel watershed study was initiated in 1999 by Rocky Mountain Research Station Scientists as part of the Southwestern Borderlands Ecosystem Management Project. The study is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project to determine the effects of cool season and warm season prescribed burning on an oak-savanna ecosystem common to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
The National Stream Internet (NSI) is a network of people, data, and analytical techniques that interact synergistically to create information about streams. The NSI is needed because accurate, high-resolution status and trend information does not exist for most biological and water quality attributes across the 5.5 million stream kilometers in the United States.
Land managers require high-quality information on species and habitats at risk to develop effective management strategies. In the absence of information on these species and their habitats, agencies frequently err on the side of the species and make conservative, and often unnecessary, decisions relative to habitat protection. Over 20 years of research by scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station are helping address these information needs.
A number of native bark beetles can cause tree mortality in western forests and urban environments. These insects have co-evolved over thousands of years with their host trees and are an integral part of forest ecosystems. Researchers are conducting numerous studies to better understand beetle’s ecological role in shaping forest composition and structure.
Climate change will affect wildlife directly through temperature and moisture changes and indirectly through habitat availability as vegetation types and ecosystem productivity changes. Our study focuses on the western United States, on an annual time frame, and at a 0.083 degree grid cell spatial scale.
Canada lynx, and their primary prey snowshoe hares, live in high-elevation spruce-fir forests, which are increasingly modified by spruce-bark beetle outbreaks. The goal of our research is to combine lynx use of insect-impacted forests with measures of forest condition.  Our results will inform forest prescriptions that facilitate timber-salvage and lynx conservation.
In the last decade there has been growing use of ecosystem services to economically justify biodiversity conservation programs that ultimately contribute to human well-being. The short term costs of biodiversity degradation remain overshadowed by the short term economic benefits of resource extraction and land use intensification to support growing human populations. Spatially explicit models of at-risk species occurrence are needed to anticipate where imperilment issues are likely to emerge in the future under alternative climate and land use scenarios. 
Synergistic interactions of climate change, mountain pine beetle infestations, and wildfire are likely to catalyze landscape-scale changes in vegetation distributions, successional stage, forest structure, and wildlife habitat suitability. Our research will provide forest managers with information they need to project changes to habitat suitability for wildlife under a range of alternative climate and management scenarios.
The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a species of conservation concern, an icon of sage-steppe ecotypes, and a sentinel for ecological integrity of shrub-grassland communities. Researchers are investigating greater sage-grouse genetic variation, population structure, and population connectivity to prioritize the importance of sage-grouse leks. The research from the Genomics Center will allow managers to evaluate how disturbances at individual leks influence the overall connectivity of the breeding network.
By 2013, a spruce beetle outbreak impacted 85% of the mature spruce-fir forests on the Rio Grande National Forest. These spruce-fir forests provided some of the highest quality lynx habitat in the state. The goal of this project is to research the forest structures and compositions that lynx and snowshoe hare depend within landscapes altered by spruce bark beetle outbreak, in relation to increased post-beetle forest management activities from timber salvage.