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Ecology, Ecosystems, & Environment

Projects

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. 
RMRS scientists have teamed up with the Dixie National Forest (DNF) to develop an environmental DNA (eDNA) assay for boreal toads. Because toads do not persistently inhabit wetlands, determinations of when, where, and how to sample are critical for the development of protocols based on eDNA.
This project is an interdisciplinary working group focused on collecting, documenting, exchanging, and archiving information about R4 groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs), particularly springs and wetlands.Current partners include Kate Dwire (RMRS), John Proctor (R4 Botanist), Mark Muir (R4 Hydrologist), Cynthia Tait (R4 Aquatic Program Manager), and Jeff Bruggink (R4 Soil Scientist).
Storage of atmospheric carbon is an important ecosystem service of healthy forests and woodlands because it mitigates the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. International reporting of this service places a premium on the specificity and precision of monitoring data used to estimate carbon storage or emission. An inventory of land cover change is a critical component of most national-level accounting systems, and the Landsat series of satellites is a uniquely positioned to provide this land cover change “activity data.” In Eastern Africa, there are already high-quality Landsat-based cover maps for 2 or 3 points in time. However, these maps do not provide the annual land cover change information needed for higher-tier IPCC reporting, and land cover changes inferred from independent maps at different dates cannot easily be assigned a level of uncertainty.
Deforestation in Haiti is well documented, with an estimated original forest cover remaining of approximately 1%. This widespread deforestation is primarily a result of hundreds of years of spreading subsistence agriculture and cutting for cooking fuel. Most of the remnant stands of original forest cover in Haiti are highly fragmented, with the last remnants primarily found in Massif de la Hotte mountain range of the southwest. This area has been identified as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA).
North American Forest Dynamics (NAFD) project is exploiting the Landsat historical record to develop a quantitative understanding of forest disturbance patterns across the conterminous US.
The Landscape Change Monitoring System (LCMS) is an emerging remote sensing-based system for mapping and monitoring land cover and land use change across the US. Envisioned as a framework for integrating Landsat-based products and other datasets, LCMS  is producing spatially, temporally, and thematically comprehensive data and information from which landscape change can be consistently assessed, documented, and analyzed at the national scale. 

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