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Science Spotlights

A Clark’s nutcracker harvesting seed from whitebark pine cones. Photo courtesy of Diana Tomback
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) forests are declining across most of their range in North America because of the combined effects of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) outbreaks, fire exclusion policies, and the exotic pathogen Cronartium ribicola, which infects five-needle white pines and causes the disease white pine blister rust. Predicted changes in climate may exacerbate whitebark pine decline by (1) accelerating succession to...
Measuring gas exchange on an establishing seedling. Photo by Kasten Dumroese, USDA Forest Service.
Restoration and reforestation using nursery-produced seedlings can be an effective means of increasing successful establishment and rapid growth following outplanting. This, in turn, can accelerate the recovery trajectory of these ecosystems. However, in many ecosystems of the world, seasonal changes as well as changing climate can create dry conditions that are not favorable to seedling establishment.
Rangelands occupy 25 percent of America's landscape. Photo by David Valentine (used with permission).
Rangelands are ecologically diverse ecosystems in the drier parts of the United States, occupying around 25 percent of the United States land area. Rangelands provide a variety of ecosystem services, including wildlife habitat, clean water, and carbon sequestration. Rangelands also provide the opportunity for commodity products such as domestic livestock, energy (solar, and oil and gas), and small diameter wood products. Rangelands contribute to...
New book provides visual guide to disease identification for 84 hardwood and 32 conifer tree diseases in the Great Plains. This book includes color illustrations, a glossary of technical terms, and indexes of hosts and pathogens. It covers diseases of foliage, roots, stems, and branches soil-borne and wilt diseases, and the safe handling and use of pesticides.
Caption: A restoration treatment that incorporates both horizontal  and vertical elements. Pike National Forest.  Photo: Mike Battaglia.
Restoration in historically frequent fire forests of the western U.S. often attempts to restore the historical characteristics of forest structure and fire behavior. However, most of our attempts to assess the success of meeting these targets relies on non-spatial metrics of forest stand structure as well as the use of fire behavior models that lack the ability to handle complex forest structures. In this study, we used spatially explicit forest...
Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).
Two closely related invasive Linaria species, Dalmatian toadflax (Linaria dalmatica) and yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), have successfully invaded a broad range of ecosystems throughout most of continental North America. The management challenge imposed by the landscape scale of many toadflax infestations, particularly in the West, is further complicated by hybridization between these two weeds. Herbicide and biological control treatments...
Mature bluebunch wheatgrass reproductive seed stalks just before dispersal. Photo by Francis Kilkenny
Native plant community restoration is a vital tool for preserving and maintaining diverse ecosystems that support wildlife and provide ecosystem functions essential to healthy human communities. The success of restoration projects depends on using plant materials that are adapted to local environmental and climatic conditions. Seed transfer guidelines and seed zones help land managers in selecting the right seed for the right place.
Research to love graphic
A new paper in the journal Climatic Change highlights human incentives for positive change in uncertain situations. The research shows that humans will take collective action to address a common problem if the problem, the amount of action needed to address the problem, and the potential consequences of not solving the problem are framed appropriately.
Wildflowers on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
It has been suggested that exotic plants will be more successful than native plant species as a result of climate change. This is because exotics often exhibit stronger responses to disturbance, faster growth rates, and greater plasticity. In this study, we show that climate change can actually shift the balance in favor of natives when it creates conditions that favor the slower more "tortoise-like" strategies of some natives.
Despite widespread and severe mortality, many acres of healthy conifer and hardwood forest remain in Colorado. Photo by J.D. Shaw
The current inventory of Colorado’s forest is the first to use the complete set of Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plots across all ownerships and forest types. The inventory was completed at a time when Colorado forests were undergoing substantial change, primarily in the form of insect infestations in pine and spruce, but also because of drought. This report captures the current status and recent trends.