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Landscape ecology

Science Spotlights

A map of the three focal areas of th Southern Rockies LCC
Rocky Mountain Research Station Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Program is working with the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative to conduct landscape analyses for conservation planning for natural and cultural resources in two focal areas: the Four Corners and the Upper Rio Grande regions of the Southwest.
landscape shot of beetle killed forest
Forest restoration, resilience, and wildfire are major issues of contemporary forest management. Integral to these issues is the destruction, understanding, and management of mountain pine beetles. This is the story of 115 years of mountain pine beetles, associated organisms and the people that study them in the Black Hills. It reads much like a film-noir. This research informs forest policy and management throughout western North America.  
Research Forester Emily Heyerdahl prepares samples for archiving (photo by Roger Pilkington).
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is preparing more than 16,000 tree-ring specimens for permanent archiving. Each specimen is a unique record of the environmental conditions from which it came. This tree-ring specimen collection will be permanently archived at the only federally recognized tree-ring repository in the U.S., where its importance will grow as it is used in ways we cannot currently imagine.
Pinyon jays perched atop berry-laden juniper tree.
Over the past century, many pinyon-juniper woodlands in the Great Basin have expanded their range and increased their stand densities. These changes in structure and extent have effects on both the species that use the woodlands and to species whose habitat is being encroached by them. We observed and described where pinyon jays prefer to cache seeds in order to gain an understanding on how and where expansion and infill is likely to occur and...
Simulated fire behavior during the green, red, and gray stages of a mountain pine beetle outbreak under various levels of tree mortality (20%, 58%, and 100% mortality) and low wind speeds.
This study explored the impact of beetle-induced mortality and wind speed on fire behavior during the pre-outbreak (“green stage”), immediately post-mortality when dead needles remain on trees (“red stage”), and when needles drop to the ground (“gray stage”) in southwestern ponderosa pine forests.
A wolverine
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is examining the wolverine (Gulo gulo) as a candidate for listing as a threatened or endangered species. RMRS researchers are investigating suitable habitats for wolverine reintroduction efforts, and have found ways to apply models derived from current genetic patterns to future landscapes to inform land management decisions on existing and future corridor locations. While current efforts are focused on...
The movement of black bears is strongly limited by roads.
Increasing human populations have fueled urban development and land conversion, causing substantial loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat. Researchers evaluated conditions for 108 different species across a large portion of the Northern Rockies in order to predict current and potential future patterns of fragmentation, prioritize keystone corridors for protection and enhancement, and identify which species in which places might require...
The swift fox is a species of conservation concern in the Great Plains (photo compliments of the National Park Service).
Increasing human populations have fueled urban development and land conversion, causing substantial loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat. In addition, climate change is expected to drive large-scale shifts in ecological conditions and geographic shifts in vegetation types. RMRS researchers found that species’ dispersal ability plays a larger role than its landscape resistance in determining connectivity. Specific information on habitat...
Hikers in the Lost Coast Wilderness in California (USDA FS)
The Wilderness Act noted its 50th anniversary in the signing of the law in 2014. Leopold Institute scientists and partners contributed five major articles highlighting 50 years of Wilderness science.
View of vegetative recovery five years after fire on a Colorado Plateau site includes scattered mountain big sagebrush plants that grew from seeds that survived the fire. (photo by Stanley Kitchen)
This issue of the GSD Update takes a look at selected studies of the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program (GSD) that depict its strengths and focus areas. Significant results of recent research and science delivery by GSD scientists are highlighted related to 1) ecosystem resiliency, and native and invasive species management, and 2) the role of climate in species adaptation, restoration and management.

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