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Science Spotlights

Image mosaic of the Clark Fork River during the falling limb of the hydrograph on July 2, 2014.
We used aerial imagery to identify, map, and measure the area of aquatic and terrestrial floodplain habitats during a seasonal flooding disturbance. Understanding links between landscape pattern and changing discharge during a typical bankfull flood provides insight into the annual flux and spatial change in habitats, as well as the long-term structure and function of floodplains.
Watershed following the Las Conchas Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest. Credit goes to: Anna Jaramillo-Scarborough
Wildfires, an important natural disturbance in southwestern ecosystems, can present challenges to resource managers, communities, and private landowners when they burn areas subject to post-fire flooding and erosion. Many government agencies and research institutions have developed science and management tools for estimating post-fire effects and mitigating risks in burned landscapes. We assessed the utility of currently available tools and...
Armillaria spp.
Background Root diseases are a primary cause of reduced timber volume, decreased carbon sequestration, and impaired ecosystem function. In the inland northwestern USA, root diseases have accounted for more losses in timber volume than forest fires or other disturbances. Management options to combat losses from root diseases have been limited. Armillaria altimontana and A. solidipes are soil fungi that frequently co-occur in the northwestern USA...
Pioneer Fire in Idaho, night time photo of active fire running up hill
The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station recently released a new General Technical Report, GTR-392, Cross-boundary Wildfire and Community Exposure: A Framework and Application in the Western US. The publication describes the development and application of a framework to assess cross-boundary wildfire exposure for the Western U.S. with the purpose of mapping potential fire transmission among public and private lands, and...
Background This study shows that postfire seeding can have lasting effects on successional patterns in Great Basin plant communities. While the abundance and dominance of particular species are likely to change over time, the initial seed-mix can have a strong influence on later plant community composition. This emphasizes the importance of designing seed mixes that take into account probable long-term successional trajectories and of...
Potential changes in vegetation distribution in Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, and adjacent Forest Service wilderness areas.
National parks, wilderness areas, and nature reserves were created to preserve a sample of pristine ecosystems, but even the most remote protected areas face serious threats from climate change. Managers would benefit from a better understanding how ecosystems within protected areas may respond to global warming.  
stand-level thinning
Large, old trees, often called legacy trees, serve a foundational role in old-growth forests. Restoration efforts to improve vigor of legacy trees and decrease risk to high-intensity wildland fire and drought-mediated insect mortality often include reductions in stand density. However, sometimes regulatory and social constraints limit stand-level thinning options by requiring maintenance of closed canopies.
During and after fire
Each year wildland fires kill and injure trees on millions of forested hectares globally, causing both positive and negative impacts to plant and animal biodiversity, carbon storage, hydrologic processes, and ecosystem services. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of fire-caused tree mortality is important to accurately predict mortality, estimate fire-driven feedbacks to the global carbon cycle, extrapolate to novel future conditions, and...
Tree planting after a wildfire on the Boise National Forest
The number of global initiatives for forest restoration, and the scope of these initiatives, continues to increase. An important tool for meeting objectives of these global initiatives is reforestation, achieved by natural processes or by tree planting. Worldwide, organizations are challenged to most efficiently and effectively direct resources to the most critical reforestation needs. Currently in the United States, the reforestation efforts of...
A picture of open oak forest with grassland understory treated by fire in Missouri, showing greenery and trees (photo courtesy of C. Kinkead).
Although not presented in textbooks, open forests were the dominant historical forested ecosystems of the United States. Eastern and western oak forests and southeastern pine forests no longer occur at landscape scales. Management for open oak and pine forests will provide herbaceous habitat, critical to many declining bird and pollinator species.