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Science Spotlights

Photo of a fen with floating mat on the water. The mat has Carex limosa and Sphagnum mosses
Mountain fens (peat-accumulating wetlands) are groundwater-dependent habitats (i.e. groundwater dependent ecosystems) protected under the Clean Water Act and other federal mandates in the United States. There is increasing interest in documenting and monitoring the occurrence and characteristics of fens. In addition to supporting unusual plants, fens are sites of carbon and water storage and long-term ecological stability, since the underlying...
National Genomics Center stream water filter setup for eDNA sample collection
The National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation pioneered development of eDNA sampling of aquatic environments at their laboratory in Missoula, MT. The Center has partnered with dozens of National Forests, as well as other state, federal, tribal, and private natural resource organizations to assist in the collection and processing of eDNA samples. Thousands of eDNA samples are collected annually and constitute a rapidly growing...
Winter snowpack on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah. Photo by USDA Forest Service.
Understanding snowpack variability is an important goal of water management, in particular, in the arid west where snow represents a major water storage feature. Snowpack observations in the Intermountain West are sparse and short, making them difficult for use in depicting past variability and extremes.
Despite widespread and severe mortality, many acres of healthy conifer and hardwood forest remain in Colorado. Photo by J.D. Shaw
The current inventory of Colorado’s forest is the first to use the complete set of Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plots across all ownerships and forest types. The inventory was completed at a time when Colorado forests were undergoing substantial change, primarily in the form of insect infestations in pine and spruce, but also because of drought. This report captures the current status and recent trends.  
Forest plot data is matched to gridded landscape data from LANDFIRE using the random forests method. The output consists of a grid of the IDs for the best-matching plot for each pixel. of the number, size, and species of trees in forests across the western United States are desirable for a number of applications including estimating terrestrial carbon resources, tree mortality following wildfires, and for forest inventory. However, detailed mapping of trees for large areas is not feasible with current technologies. We used a statistical method called random forests for matching...
A world map displaying the density of ModelMap downloads
Working in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, we have access to a valuable collection of detailed information about forests on thousands of sample plots distributed across the country. This information is used to produce summaries of forestland characteristics for a variety of geographic areas such as states or individual national forests. We wanted a simple tool to extend this sample data and make detailed maps of forest...
Paul Patterson presenting during the R and Open Foris Calc Workshop in Lima, Peru
Carbon sequestration is an important element in the discussion towards limiting the impacts of climate change. There are proposals to pay tropical countries to maintain their forests to maximize carbon sequestration. Vital to this proposal is the existence of a National Forest Inventory with statistically valid estimates of forest attributes.
There is new methodology for fitting ecologically feasible “shapes” to time series of Landsat imagery for modeling, mapping, and monitoring annual forest disturbance dynamics. Through a case study of fire, harvest and bark beetle outbreak, scientists illustrate how resultant fitted values and parameters can be fed into empirical models to map disturbance causal agent and tree canopy cover changes coincident with disturbance events through time.
Northern goshawk nestlings
The elusive northern goshawk, its forest habitats, and the habitats of its bird and mammal prey are significant conservation issues related to the management of forests throughout the hawk’s North American range.  The Rocky Mountain Research Station has been enumerating the population size and documenting the population ecology and demography of individual goshawks on Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau for 20 years with the objective of identifying the...
Lynx kitten from a female in spruce-beetle kill
Spruce-bark beetles impacted about 480,000 acres of spruce-fir forests in southern Colorado and are spreading at the rate of 100,000 acres annually.  A central question is how to salvage for timber production insect-impacted forests in ways consistent with the management and conservation of Canada lynx, a federally-listed species.