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Landscape ecology

Science Spotlights

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.
Removing young juniper trees with a chainsaw to restore a mountain big sagebrush community (photo by Jeremy Roberts)
Sagebrush ecosystems and the more than 350 species that rely on them are highly imperiled due to persistent threats such as invasive annual grasses, pinyon and juniper expansion, and altered fire regimes. Understanding their relative resilience or recovery potential following wildfire or management treatments provides the basis for more effective selection of treatment areas and restoration strategies.
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...

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