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Science Spotlights

fishing on snake river
Anyone familiar with the Columbia River’s massive salmon die-off a few summers ago might also be concerned about how climate change will affect fish habitats. The 2015 die-off killed more than 250,000 fish and was blamed on record low streamflows and high water temperatures. While coldwater fish such as salmon and trout can adjust to slightly warmer-than-normal temperatures for short periods, abnormally high temperatures for prolonged periods...
Whitebark pine sapling, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho
Forest inventory data show that more than half of all standing whitebark pine trees in the U.S. are dead. Regeneration of whitebark pine is widespread, especially in lodgepole pine stands, which suggests that active management of whitebark pine should target mixed-species stands to take advantage of natural regeneration. 
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...
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...
Denali National Park and Preserve
The recent development of an interagency strategy to monitor wilderness character allows on-the-ground managers and decision-makers to assess whether stewardship actions for an individual wilderness are fulfilling the legislative mandate to “preserve wilderness character.” By using credible data that are consistently collected, one can assess how wilderness character changes over time and evaluate how stewardship actions affect trends in...
hunter
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.

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