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Landscape ecology


The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is an apex predator in most forests in the United States and Canada. Natural resource managers need information on how 3-dimensional forest structure impacts habitat quality for northern goshawk. Scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station are addressing this need by combining 21 years of demographic research with recently acquired high-resolution LiDAR data.
External DNA released by animals in aquatic environments, called environmental DNA (eDNA), can be used to determine whether a species is present without actually capturing or seeing an individual. Because of its greater efficiency and reduced cost, eDNA sampling may revolutionize the monitoring and assessment of freshwater species.
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.
The development of ecological restoration treatment prescriptions based on historical forest structure is needed to inform management activities within the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) and other restoration efforts. Our goal is to provide managers with locally derived, historically realistic, and climatically sustainable targets for desired future stand and landscape conditions for the Colorado Front Range and South Dakota Black Hills. 
Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) scientists have been at the forefront of efforts to understand the ecology of the threatened Mexican spotted owls (Strix occidentalis lucida) for more than 25 years. These scientists and their cooperators have produced most of the existing scientific information on this species. Today, RMRS scientists continue to be actively involved in developing new knowledge on this owl, synthesizing existing information, and working with managers to integrate habitat requirements for the owl and its important prey species into land management plans.
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. 
We assessed whether theory about species’ geographic ranges can be refined to reflect abrupt changes in distribution and abundance associated with human-dominated land uses, and whether the prevalence and diversity of these abrupt relationships may significantly complicate the management of multiple species simultaneously.
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.
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.