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Landscape ecology

Science Spotlights

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.
RMRS scientists recently completed a 10 year study of a population of threatened Mexican spotted owls (Strix occidentalis lucida) in the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico. This study evaluated demography, habitat use, and diet composition of spotted owls, as well as forest structure characteristic of owl habitat. We determined that most owl nests are located in wet mixed-conifer forests not greatly in need of ecological restoration.
Riparian habitat along the Rio Grande, New Mexico
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a coupled approach that combines species distribution models, predictions for future fire regime, and climate change vulnerability assessments to estimate the interactive impacts of climate change and fire on species that reside within riparian habitats in the Southwest.
View of the Desert Experimental Station and administrative buildings after a summer rain.
The Desert Experimental Range (DER) became an outdoor laboratory representative of a prominent ecosystem under stress with expectations that the research conducted there would have broad application.
The distribution of plant species and populations will likely be reshaped as climate changes. Understanding these changes is complex and requires the integration of multiple research disciplines including genetics, climate modeling and biogeography. This research focuses on blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima), a widespread shrub that straddles the ecotone, transition area between two plant communities, from the Great Basin and Mojave Desert...
Western larch
Researchers compiled a literary database about native plant transfer guidelines, climate change, and assisted migration. This database can help inform scientists, land managers, and university students about climate change and assisted migration through presentations and publications that cover the historical, biological, social, legal, and ethical aspects of assisted migration.
A recently implemented science-based ponderosa pine restoration treatment site on the Pike National Forest near Manitou Experimental Forest (photo by Mike A Battaglia).
Ponderosa pine forests vary greatly from region to region across the western United States. Our research on the Colorado Front Range demonstrates that ponderosa pine forest structure was historically a mixture of openings, single trees, and groups of two - five trees growing together. There were a variety of age classes within a stand and tree diameters were generally smaller than those observed in other regions.
Scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and their collaborators have made great contributions to the development and application of broad-scale, representative, multi-resource monitoring protocols. They have played a key role in developing and improving sampling methodology, survey design, and analysis of non-invasively collected genetic data.
Elk bugleing
One of the biggest challenges that wildlife and plant populations face is the speed at which climate change is predicted to occur. For some species the rapid rate of change will outpace their ability to migrate to more suitable habitats. What is needed is an understanding of the evolutionary and genetic responses to climate change and accurate identification of which species will be unable to persist given various climatic predictions. Our...

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