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Science Spotlights

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.  
Mountain big sagebrush and mountain brush community in the Toiyabe Range, central Nevada. Photo by Jeanne Chambers
The Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome (Science Framework) provides a strategic, multiscale approach for prioritizing areas for management and determining effective management strategies across the sagebrush biome.
A firefighter lights a prescribed fire with a drip torch.
Some objectives for prescribed fire include reducing fuel loads and fuel continuity, returning fire to an ecosystem, enhancing wildlife habitats, improving forage, preparing seedbeds, improving watershed conditions, enhancing nutrient cycling, controlling exotic weeds, and enhancing resilience from climate change. Regardless of the particular objective, fire affects ecosystem structure, composition, and function in many ways.
Spatial patterns in self- calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index (scPDSI) in 2014 across California. The gray area denotes trends in scPDSI with latitude and longitude. Negative values indicate drier conditions.
Using satellite imagery, this study identifies California ecosystems that are most resistant to drought. Changes in water use efficiency were used to measure ecosystem drought resistance, to improve our understanding of how ecosystems respond to water limitation.
Female greater sage-grouse observed at a high-elevation mountain big sagebrush site, Inyo National Forest, CA, photo by Chris Balzotti, Stanford University, used with permission.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station holds a long legacy in sagebrush and rangeland research dating back to the 1930s. With over 70 years of research on sagebrush ecosystem dynamics as well as mechanisms to manage for resilient and resistant sagebrush ecosystems, Forest Service scientists continue as a leading resource for providing sound science to the management of these landscapes.
Remote camera captures a wolverine as it approaches a researcher's trap.
Forest Service scientists and their research partners use a novel approach that includes trapping and fitting wolverines with GPS collars that accurately plot their movements in areas of high winter recreation. Thenvolunteer snowmobilers, back-country skiers, and other recreationists carry GPS units in the same areas used by wolverines. Resulting data show how wolverines respond to winter recreation in terms of their movements, behaviors, and...
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is a partner in helping to protect or restore relationships between residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation and the Mission Mountain landscape.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station, in partnership with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of Montana, and the University of Leeds, UK, are working together to protect or restore relationships between residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation and the Mission Mountain landscape within the reservation.
Healthy sagebrush common garden at Great Basin Experimental Range.
Two common gardens were established for big sagebrush and blackbrush at the Great Basin and Desert Experimental Ranges in Utah, respectively. The experimental areas are ideal for studies in which plants representing multiple populations of a single species are grown together in common environments. These types of studies provide a useful approach for understanding species limits.  
Sulphur-flower buckwheat seed.
Faced with extensive disturbances and climatological challenges that are rapidly changing ecosystems, scientists and land managers require the seeds of today to provide the plants of tomorrow. Researchers are currently studying more than 50 plant species in order to select best adapted plants to current and future climate conditions.

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