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Science Spotlights

Boundary waters canoe area wilderness
Beginning in 2013, the Superior National Forest partnered with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute to develop a map of threats to wilderness character in the BWCAW. The primary goal of this project was to spatially depict how threats to wilderness character vary in magnitude and extent across the wilderness. This project was also intended to improve our understanding of the current condition of wilderness character, contribute to...
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Historically, racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are not as likely to recreate or work in the country’s natural lands as are racial whites. Data from the Forest Service’s National Visitor Use Monitoring program indicate disproportionate utilization of National Forest System recreation opportunities by the nation’s minority racial and ethnic groups. Past individual case studies conducted of regional areas have addressed constraints...
A prescribed fire burning through Pinus monophylla and Juniperus osteosperma in the Great Basin Piñon-Juniper Woodland of the Southern Intermountain geographic region. (Photo by Jeanne Chambers, RMRS.)
Changes in fire patterns for piñon and juniper vegetation in the western United States were analyzed over a 30-year period. This is the first evaluation of its type.
Picture shows high-severity (stand-replacing) fire effects on the 2002 Hayman Fire, Colorado. Photo credit: NIFC.
Dry conifer forests in the Western United States historically had low impact surface fires approximately every five to 30 years. Due to more than 100 years of successful fire exclusion, however, many of these forests are now denser, and therefore have a greater probability of experiencing intense fires that burn entire stands and convert forests to non-forest landscapes. What environmental conditions are necessary to promote low-severity fire in...
Wilderness managers in North Cascades National Park opted for chemical treatments to remove invasive fish species (Photo by National Park Service staff).
Altered disturbance regimes and changing ecosystem dynamics in wilderness areas have increased the importance of having an evaluation framework to support transparent decision-making for ecological restoration actions. A recently created wilderness evaluation framework questionnaire allows for improved communication between land management agencies and wilderness stakeholders.
Prescribed fire in the Manitou Experimental Forest, Pike National Forest, October 2014. Reintroduction of fire through prescribed or wildland fire use is a vital component of restoration to restore ecological processes. Photo: Steve Alton, USFS
The need to better understand factors controlling fire severity are invoked by concerns about public safety, infrastructure, critical wildlife habitat, watershed health, and successional trajectories. Such concerns are heightened in forests with a legacy of past logging and fire exclusion, where significant shifts in ecosystem composition, structure, and function have triggered fuel conditions at greater risk for high-severity fire.  
Saguaro National Park Thumbnail Image
The purpose of this project was to develop an approach that spatially depicts threats to wilderness character and how they vary across the Saguaro Wilderness. The maps produced through this project depict the Saguaro Wilderness’ current degree of departure or degradation from an “optimal condition” of wilderness character. 
Forest Fire Thumbail
Wildland fire has the potential to influence properties of subsequent fire. Researchers monitored the extent to which a previous wildland fire inhibits new fires from igniting.
fire thumbnail
The large amount of media coverage of recent massive wildfires across the world has emphasized the vulnerability of freshwater resources. Extensive hydrogeomorphic effects from a wildfire can impair the availability of watersheds to provide safe drinking water to downstream communities and high-quality water to maintain riverine ecosystem health. In this particular study researchers analyzed global wildfire-water risks.

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