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Science Spotlights

100 years ago a study was initiatied near the Fort Valley Experimental Forest in Arizona to look at how different varieties of ponderosa pines would grow in different forest/geographic areas. Researchers found that more northerly or higher elevation materials performed better.    
The mountain pine beetle is an important bark beetle associated with ponderosa pine in the Black Hills. Episodic outbreaks can result in extensive tree mortality compromising ecosystem services. Strategies are needed to mitigate mortality levels where appropriate. This study sampled stands ranging from 35 acres to 365 acres and were widely distributed across the 6,000 square miles of the Black Hills.  
The Mexican spotted owl is listed as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Species Act and is vulnerable to habitat loss from wildfire and climate change. RMRS scientists are leading a cutting-edge modeling effort to predict the interactive effects of forest restoration, wildfire, and climate change on the distribution, population size, and population connectivity of Mexican spotted owl across the Southwestern United States.  
Figure 1Map of Borneo showing areas of forest loss between 2000 and 2010 in yellow, areas of forest persistence from 2000 to 2010 in green, and areas that were not forest in 2000 in black.
A collaborative team, led by RMRS Research Ecologist Samuel Cushman, has produced a substantial breakthrough in advancing predictive modeling of drivers and patterns of deforestation. The method combines multi-scale optimization with machine-learning predictive modeling to identify the drivers of deforestation and map relative future deforestation risk.  
More than one-sixth of the world’s population rely on seasonal snow for water. In the western U.S., nearly three-quarters of the annual streamflow that provides the water supply arrives as spring and summer melt from the mountain snowpacks. SnowEx is a science campaign that combines on-the-ground measurements with aerial and remote sensing to improve measurements and techniques for identifying the amount of water in snow. 
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Intact forests preserve water quality in our lakes and streams, providing cost savings for municipal water providers. American water utilities spend millions of dollars protecting and improving their source water to ensure the delivery of safe drinking water. Knowing the value of this green infrastructure helps communities and land managers better steward the watersheds we rely on and helps the Forest Service better engage with stakeholders in...
Example of traumatic resin ducts formed during 1997, 1998, and tangentially during 1999, in response to a large spruce beetle outbreak.
The formation of traumatic resin ducts in Engelmann spruce represents an important induced defense in response to environmental perturbations. The occurrence and strength of resin ducts, in particular traumatic resin ducts, in annually resolved tree rings could be used to reconstruct a tree’s structural damage association with natural disturbances.
Winter snowpack on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah. Photo by USDA Forest Service.
Understanding snowpack variability is an important goal of water management, in particular, in the arid west where snow represents a major water storage feature. Snowpack observations in the Intermountain West are sparse and short, making them difficult for use in depicting past variability and extremes.
Bacterial exudates covering second instar kermes scales feeding at the junction of new and one-year-old growth.
Disease complexes, the result of insects and plant pathogens interacting to compromise their plant hosts, are becoming increasingly common worldwide. These disease complexes represent an imminent threat to plant biodiversity, because the combined activity of insects and pathogens can cause more damage with a potential for increased spread than diseases caused by a single organism. To better understand and better manage emerging disease complexes...
Figure 1. A post-fire ponderosa pine seedling in a high-severity burn patch of the 2000 Pumpkin Fire, Arizona.
Over the past three decades, wildfires in southwestern United States ponderosa pine forests have increased in size and severity, leaving large patches of tree mortality. Ponderosa pine evolved under fire regimes dominated by low- to moderate-severity wildfires, and they are poorly adapted to regenerating in large patches of high-severity fire. There is concern about these high-severity burn patches because the lack of seed-producing trees can...

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