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Climate Change

Science Spotlights

Potential changes in vegetation distribution in Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, and adjacent Forest Service wilderness areas.
National parks, wilderness areas, and nature reserves were created to preserve a sample of pristine ecosystems, but even the most remote protected areas face serious threats from climate change. Managers would benefit from a better understanding how ecosystems within protected areas may respond to global warming.  
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...
Annual PM2.5 emitted averaged over 2003-2015
Wildfires are a major source of fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) in the United States and can have substantial impacts on public health. In addition to acute pollution episodes, wildfires can have a marginal effect on air quality at significant distances from the source, presenting significant challenges to air regulators’ efforts to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Improved emission estimates are needed to quantify the...
Big sage mountain brush
An unprecedented conservation effort is underway across 11 Western states to address threats to sagebrush ecosystems and the many species that depend on them. Today, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior released the Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome (Part 2). The Science Framework provides a transparent, ecologically responsible approach for making policy and management decisions...
Trailing edge forest Southern Rockies ecoregion
Forests are an incredibly important resource across the globe, yet they are threatened by climate change through stressors such as drought, insect outbreaks, and wildfire. Trailing edge forests—those areas expected to experience range contractions under a changing climate—are of concern because of the potential for abrupt conversion to non-forest. However, broad-scale forest die-off and range contraction in trailing edge forests are unlikely to...
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.
Cattle in the arid west. Photo by Keith Weller, USDA ARS from
Forage availability for grazing animals has always been vulnerable to the effects of variations of weather and climate from year–to–year, with some years and decades markedly drier than others.
Mature bluebunch wheatgrass reproductive seed stalks just before dispersal. Photo by Francis Kilkenny
Over the last decade, decisions surrounding the provenance, or the geographic origin of a seed source, has sparked a debate whether or not to use local native or nonlocal native seed. A new paper turns a traditionally theoretical discussion into specific priority actions for researchers and practitioners involved in restoration.
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.
fishing on snake river
Anyone familiar with the Columbia River’s massive salmon die-off a few summers ago might also be concerned about how climate change will affect fish habitats. The 2015 die-off killed more than 250,000 fish and was blamed on record low streamflows and high water temperatures. While coldwater fish such as salmon and trout can adjust to slightly warmer-than-normal temperatures for short periods, abnormally high temperatures for prolonged periods...