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Science Spotlights

The Cheesman Lake landscape 13 years following the 2002 Hayman Fire. Living trees are apparent only adjacent to Cheesman Lake. Photograph by P.M. Brown.
In 2002, the Hayman Fire burned across the unlogged Cheesman Lake landscape, a 3,400 hectare dry-conifer forest landscape in Colorado that had been the subject of previous fire history and forest structure research. We opportunistically leveraged pre-existing fire history and forest structure to provide insight into whether the Hayman Fire burned more severely than historical ones.
A post-fire ponderosa pine seedling stands alone in a severely burned portion of the 2002 Hayman Fire, Colorado. (File name: fornwalt spotlight 2016 post-fire tree regeneration
Wildfire is an important disturbance in ponderosa pine forests of the southern Rocky Mountains, but the past two decades have witnessed fires of increased severity. The severely burned portions of these fires are generating concern about forest resilience, as there is uncertainty about ponderosa pine’s ability to regenerate in areas where no surviving trees remain.
African lion. Photo: S. Cushman
Populations of large carnivores are declining globally, and in Africa the ranges of lions, leopards, wild dogs and spotted hyenas have contracted dramatically in the past few decades. The goal of this project is to assess current population distribution and connectivity for these species across a vast trans-boundary region of Southern Africa, comprising the Kavango-Zambeizi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA), which consists of most of...
Building upon existing long-term studies in the Taylor Woods of the Fort Valley Experimental Forest, this study tested the relationship between overstory density and seedling survival in ponderosa pine forests. A long term experiment in northern Arizona was used to investigate the impacts of repeated stand thinning. This study provides valuable information that will guide forest managers in incorporating regeneration goals into forest managment...
A map of the three focal areas of th Southern Rockies LCC
Rocky Mountain Research Station Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Program is working with the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative to conduct landscape analyses for conservation planning for natural and cultural resources in two focal areas: the Four Corners and the Upper Rio Grande regions of the Southwest.
landscape shot of beetle killed forest
Forest restoration, resilience, and wildfire are major issues of contemporary forest management. Integral to these issues is the destruction, understanding, and management of mountain pine beetles. This is the story of 115 years of mountain pine beetles, associated organisms and the people that study them in the Black Hills. It reads much like a film-noir. This research informs forest policy and management throughout western North America.  
Monarch Butterfly on flower
Focusing on wildflowers (forbs) during restoration work in the western sagebrush ecosystem can benefit sage-grouse, pollinators, and the iconic Monarch butterfly. Can a more holistic approach be taken to maximize the effectivness of wildlife conservation? Outplanting forb seedlings in high-density islands may be a way to accelerate the pace of restoration, reduce the amount of seeds required, and provide critical linkage among remaining high-...
Florida Everglades. Photo credit: National Park Service.
The Florida Everglades are composed of a conglomerate of wetland ecosystems that have varying capacities to sequester and store carbon. As shifts in both precipitation and air temperature are expected over the next 100 years as a consequence of climate change, carbon dioxide dynamics in the greater Everglades are expected to change.
Florida Everglades. Photo credit: National Park Service.
Low-temperature events (i.e. minimum daily temperatures < 5°C) in subtropical coastal regions can have a strong influence on landscape structure and community composition. In the Everglades region, low-temperature events may become less common, driving shifts in species distributions and carbon (C) dynamics.
Soil microbes play critical roles in forest ecosystem health, such as disease, biological control, beneficial symbioses, decomposition, and nutrient cycling. New genetic technology (metagenomics) allows tens of thousands of microbes to be identified from a small soil sample, and studies of microbial gene expression (metatranscriptomics) provides insights into microbial function in relation to forest health and ecological processes.

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