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Science Spotlights

Example of high-resolution LiDar data of canopy heights.
Airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology uses lasers mounted on aircraft to image the 3-D structure of trees and other objects on the ground. RMRS Research Forester Andrew Hudak and others are developing relationships between LiDAR estimates and traditional forestry measures collected on the ground to develop maps of forest biomass and predict changes over time. Managers can benefit from this precise, spatially explicit...
Alpine meadow from the top of Brown's Peak in the Snowy Range of Southeast Wyoming.
A recent collaboration has resulted in a definitive list of 609 vascular plant species and subspecies found in the alpine zone of the Southern Rocky Mountains. The Southern Rockies alpine plant species list shows the geographic distribution of each species and, in a major finding, documents 25 Southern Rockies alpine endemics--species that are found nowhere else in the world. 
A recently implemented science-based ponderosa pine restoration treatment site on the Pike National Forest near Manitou Experimental Forest (photo by Mike A Battaglia).
Ponderosa pine forests vary greatly from region to region across the western United States. Our research on the Colorado Front Range demonstrates that ponderosa pine forest structure was historically a mixture of openings, single trees, and groups of two - five trees growing together. There were a variety of age classes within a stand and tree diameters were generally smaller than those observed in other regions.
Climate change is having dramatic impacts on the distribution and population connectivity of wildlife species the western United States. This project is combining vast sampling of species occurrence and genetic characteristics with sophisticated spatial modeling of gene flow, connectivity, and adaptive variation. This research will benefit society by providing detailed and specific predictions of the effects of climate change on wildlife across...
Scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and their collaborators have made great contributions to the development and application of broad-scale, representative, multi-resource monitoring protocols. They have played a key role in developing and improving sampling methodology, survey design, and analysis of non-invasively collected genetic data.
The Florida Everglades ecosystem has been greatly altered by water control structures and land cover change.
Annual and seasonal changes in carbon sequestration potential are linked to extreme ENSO phases in Everglades ecosystems. Dry season precipitation increases during El Niño and declines in La Niña phases causing a shift in ecosystem carbon uptake with changes in water levels. Results suggest that changes in season length and intensity−as a result of climate change −will likely become one of the most important factors affecting carbon dynamics in...
Nonresponse bias in forest monitoring programs can result in under-estimation of forest attributes. This study presented a modified stratification scheme for New Mexico that compensated for nonresponse bias and produced more accurate forest inventory.
Samples are stored in a climate-controlled facility for future study (photo by Roger Pilkington).
Tree-ring studies are used for a wide variety of purposes, including the reconstruction of past climate. In 2009, the Interior West Forest Inventory and Analysis program started a project to inventory and archive approximately 11,000 increment cores collected in most of the Interior West states during periodic inventories of the 1980s and 1990s. 
A recently implemented science-based ponderosa pine restoration treatment site on the Pike National Forest near Manitou Experimental Forest (photo by Mike A Battaglia).
The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program provides data for monitoring forest biomass at state, regional, and national scales. In 2000, the FIA program shifted from a periodic inventory to an annual inventory. Our study illustrated the effect of comparing population estimates from the old periodic inventories with population estimates from annual inventory plots, versus comparing only plots that were measured during both periodic and...

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