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Ecology, Ecosystems, & Environment

Projects

Forest canopies exert a physical influence on the partitioning of precipitation into runoff versus evapotranspiration through several hydrologic processes. This project seeks to illuminate the ways that forest dynamics and disturbance affect hydrologic processes and availability of water for ecosystems and for people.  
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.
RMRS scientists have teamed up with managers and researchers at Bridger-Teton National Forest and Colorado State University to compare herbicide treatments to reduce cheatgrass seedlings, allowing restoration of Native Sagebrush Grassland Plant Communities. ​
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.
This project incorporates historical data collected at the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest nearly 100 years ago to determine how plant communities have changed over that period of time.
The Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest (SAEF) Vegetation Mapping Project uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create highly detailed vegetation maps using Structure From Motion technology.  These maps are then used to overlay historical vegetation maps made nearly 100 years ago to determine how vegetation has changed over the last century.
With increasing temperatures due to climate change and the inherent interannual variability in precipitation of most grasslands, droughts will likely increase in frequency and intensity across the Great Plains. Precipitation legacies from previous years can impact current year productivity in arid grasslands by shifting tiller and bud bank densities of the dominant grasses. Belowground bud survival during drought and the ability of buds to break dormancy following drought are key to maintaining a resilient grassland in both arid and mesic grasslands.
Post-fire resiliency of plant communities in northern mixed-grass prairie and eastern sagebrush steppe depends largely on plant regeneration from aboveground and belowground buds. Canopy and stem regeneration occurs more quickly via the bud bank than via seedling recruitment. To better predict plant community responses to fire, we need an enhanced understanding of the immediate and long-term bud responses of key forb, grass, and shrub species to fire.  
The research objective is to develop western white pine management strategies focused on regeneration establishment and young forest development by 1) developing canopy opening size thresholds where western white pine can establish and grow, 2) developing alternative tending methods to enable managers to continue to manage western white pine plantations, 3) evaluating plantation resilience to wildfire, and 4) evaluating understory plant diversity under 30-year or older western white pine plantations.  
Through fire management and riparian ecosystem restoration RMRS researchers Terrie Jain, Kate Dwire, and Travis Warziniack are partnering with the University of Idaho and the Idaho City Ranger District to develop, implement, and evaluate different adaptive management strategies to improve the fire resiliency of the Boise National Forest. 

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