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Landscape ecology

Projects

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.
We are integrating multiple datasets, statistical modeling tools, and simulation approaches to quantify habitat and predict population responses by woodpecker and other wildlife species of conservation concern to natural disturbance (wildfire, bark beetle outbreaks) and forest management activities to inform adaptive management of dry conifer forests.
The RMRS Raster Utility is an object oriented coding library that facilitates a wide range of spatial and statistical analyses using novel statistical methods in a newly developed Function Modeling framework. This work includes: New tools for spatial and statistical analysis Readily available, easy to use, free, GIS software add-in Website describing software functionality and applications Code repository for others to integrate into their work Tu​torials and sample analyses  
To ensure that wetland habitats are conserved, an efficient means of identifying wetlands at risk of conversion is needed, especially in the southern United States where the rate of loss has been highest in recent decades.
The Colorado Plateau and Southern Great Plains continue to experience frequent droughts and high temperatures. On-going research examines whether even drought tolerant junipers may succumb to increased aridity and begin dying at increased rates, which could significantly alter fire regimes.
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists and collaborators are working to determine how bark beetle attacks change the moisture and chemistry of several tree species and how these changes affect flammability. Findings will allow us to improve fire behavior and risk models to better predict and manage wildfires and protect property and human life. 
Areas inhabited by black-tailed prairie dogs are subject to continuous and intense disturbance by grazing and burrowing that directly and indirectly alter vegetation composition and structure compared to the surrounding uninhabited areas. The objective of this study is to evaluate patterns of vegetation heterogeneity within and among prairie dog colonies in the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains.

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