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Landscape ecology

Science Spotlights

Lake Tahoe is renowned for its intense blue hue (photo compliments of Wikimedia Commons).
Forest Service scientists developed the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model for forest conditions. Recent improvements to this model are the addition of shallow lateral flow as one of the primary sources of runoff from steep forested watersheds and the development of a phosphorus delivery model.
Spruce beetles are a native insect that infest spruce forests.
In recent decades, bark beetle disturbances are increasing in extent and severity across western forests. Causes and consequences of spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) infestation are important to the management of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) forests. Forest Service scientists modeled the effects of increased temperatures and changing forest stand conditions, such as density and species composition, on the likelihood of spruce...
Species like the European Starling (top, photo courtesy of Cephas/Creative Commons) thrive with human settlement.
Housing development has been particularly strong near protected lands because many people see these environments as desirable places to live. This study documented the trends in new home construction near protected lands and explored if this housing development impacted biodiversity of avian species within protected areas.
USDA Forest Service and University scientists and managers synthesized 100 years of published forestry science to help forest managers better understand the ecology of “frequent-fire” forests. Returning frequent-fire forests to their historical species composition and structure will increase their resilience to fire, insects, disease, and climate change.
Permanent study plot in 2008 one year following timber harvest.
Scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and university partners are investigating the short- and long-term resiliency of understory vegetation of ponderosa pine forests to a variety disturbances associated with timber harvest. Creating and maintaining a healthy forest relies on the resiliency of understory vegetation.
Sage grouse in a field
Recent connectivity assessments for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the Columbia Basin, Washington, provide an opportunity to (1) evaluate approaches for parameterizing resistance models based on sage grouse specifically or the concept of landscape integrity, (2) derive parameters from expert or empirical data, and (3) explore the influence of scale on model accuracy. Sage grouse in this region occupy a small fraction of...
Ferruginous hawk instrumented with a solar GPS transmitter.
Over the past decade and a half, raptors nesting in prairie ecosystems have been subject to sharp increases in nearby energy development activity. This research documents how nesting ferruginous hawks forage in oil and gas energy fields based on GPS telemetry. The purpose is to help managers and companies reflect conservation needs of this species in the management and arrangement of energy-development infrastructure.   
Fishers are a rare and secretive carnivore in the Rocky Mountains and along the West Coast.  They are currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  They are also being considered as a Species of Conservation Concern on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.
The bull trout is an ESA-listed species that relies on cold stream environments across the Northwest and is expected to decline with climate change. Resource managers from dozens of agencies are charged with maintaining bull trout in thousands of streams, but monitoring this species is difficult. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is much faster, easier, and more sensitive than traditional fish sampling methods and provides an opportunity to better...
Habitat suitability models provide critical information needed for forest management plans to accommodate biodiversity conservation. We are developing GIS-based application tools for forest managers that requires minimal technical expertise to create habitat maps.

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