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Science Spotlights

Maps of the likelihood of unsuppressed ignitions spreading outside the wilderness study area boundary for each month of ignition in simulated fire seasons.
A goal of fire management in wilderness is to allow fire to play its natural ecological role without intervention. Unfortunately, most unplanned ignitions in wilderness are suppressed, in part because of the risk they might pose to values outside of the wilderness. We capitalize on recent advances in fire risk analysis to demonstrate a risk-based approach for revealing where unplanned ignitions in wilderness pose little risk to non-wilderness...
Drylands view from a Sky Mountain
Drylands, characterized by scarcity of water, globally support about two billion people. While most of these people live in developing nations, drylands in North America cover an extensive area and have a variety of uses. Drylands are experiencing noticeable stress and degradation from increasing populations and a changing climate, so it is important to know the current conditions and changes that have occurred over time for sustainable...
Armillaria mellea is a parasitic fungus that frequently causes root disease in forests of the US.  Image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Mars 2002 under a Creative Commons License
Growing forests take greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. National forests must account for how natural and management-oriented disturbance processes affect carbon storage as an ecosystem benefit.  Although it doesn’t always cause large, eye-catching areas of mortality, root disease likely affects carbon storage by reducing tree growth and regeneration over vast areas.  However, no previously available tools allowed...
A world map displaying the density of ModelMap downloads
Working in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, we have access to a valuable collection of detailed information about forests on thousands of sample plots distributed across the country. This information is used to produce summaries of forestland characteristics for a variety of geographic areas such as states or individual national forests. We wanted a simple tool to extend this sample data and make detailed maps of forest...
A sporulating white pine blister rust canker from a recent infection on a branch of a susceptible limber pine (photo by Anna W. Schoettle).
Active management is needed to sustain healthy limber pine (Pinus flexilis) forests in the southern Rocky Mountains as they are threatened by the interaction of the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic, climate change, and the spread of the non-native pathogen that causes white pine blister rust disease (Cronartium ribicola). Movement of seedlings with disease resistance from northern to southern Colorado may result in...
Lodgepole forest cut Tenderfoot Creed Experimental Forest
Many lodgepole pine forests in Montana were historically a mix of ages and tree sizes as a result of mixed-severity fires. Now the forests have trees mostly the same size and crowns touch so that when fires burn, they burn as large and severe crown fires. This study looked twelve years after two patterns of thinning and burning, to see if the cutting patterns and regrowth could influence fire behavior. 
When trees are injured they develop physical and chemical boundaries around the injury wound to resist infection. Trees also grow new wood to close over the injured place. Injuries caused by fires result in fire scars and we use the patterns of scarring among many trees to understand when and how often fires burn.  This research helps to understand the biological process of fire scar formation and use it to improve fire history analysis.
Paul Patterson presenting during the R and Open Foris Calc Workshop in Lima, Peru
Carbon sequestration is an important element in the discussion towards limiting the impacts of climate change. There are proposals to pay tropical countries to maintain their forests to maximize carbon sequestration. Vital to this proposal is the existence of a National Forest Inventory with statistically valid estimates of forest attributes.
Alex Gaffke (front) and Diane Johnson (back) measuring Dalmatian toadflax density and heights on a biocontrol site transect, July 2013.
The impacts of typical weed treatments on both the target weed(s) and non-target plant species that occur in large scale, chronic weed infestations are seldom quantitatively assessed or compared. Further, advantages or disadvantages of making high density ‘inundative’ biocontrol releases to counteract high levels of overwintering mortality affecting agent establishment and increase are seldom documented. Impacts of inundative biocontrol on...
There is new methodology for fitting ecologically feasible “shapes” to time series of Landsat imagery for modeling, mapping, and monitoring annual forest disturbance dynamics. Through a case study of fire, harvest and bark beetle outbreak, scientists illustrate how resultant fitted values and parameters can be fed into empirical models to map disturbance causal agent and tree canopy cover changes coincident with disturbance events through time.

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