Research Roundup

Overviews of the climate change work happening at Forest Service research stations.
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Monitoring wildlife habitat
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Rocky Mountain Research Station

Noninvasive genetic sampling has become the most effective way to reliably sample occurrence of many species. In addition, genetic data provide a rich data source enabling the monitoring of population status. Collecting genetically based animal data along with information on vegetation and topography enables the development of habitat relationships and evaluation of population attributes. Scientists can use these data to develop statistical models, monitor animal populations, and evaluate habitat connectivity.

Contact: Kevin McKelvey
Habitat Corridors for Canada Lynx
Rocky Mountain Research Station

RMRS scientists are researching factors that are important for managing the federally threatened Canada lynx, which can be negatively affected by human caused disturbances and climate change. One key factor is maintaining connectivity so that lynx can move between populations. Recent research revealed only a few corridors of lynx habitat between Canada and the conterminous US. Maintaining the integrity of these connectivity corridors is of primary importance to lynx conservation in the Northern Rockies.

Contact: John Squires
Wolverines and Climate Constraints
Rocky Mountain Research Station
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have shown that historical wolverine distribution was highly correlated with persistent snow. Genetic analysis reinforced these understandings and showed that the occurrence patterns had been present for at least 2,000 years. Wolverine's snow association is likely due to the location of reproductive dens in snow. Researchers collaborated to project snow patterns into the future and determine the likely effects of snow cover changes on wolverines.

Contact: Kevin McKelvey
Climate Aquatics Blog
Rocky Mountain Research Station

This blog and associated discussion group provide a forum for researchers, scientists, and managers to discuss aquatic ecosystems and climate change. Posts highlight peer reviewed research and science tools relevant to this subject.

Contact: Dan Isaak
Boise Aquatic Sciences Laboratory
Rocky Mountain Research Station

Scientists at the laboratory are leading several collaborative research efforts related to climate change and aquatic ecosystems. Some examples include understanding the effects of climate change on stream habitats and fish communities, particularly in the case of native trout and salmon, and examining the effects of fire disturbance on stream habitats. Please browse the Scientist Profile pages for more project descriptions and publications.

Contact: Dan Isaak
Projecting timing of budburst under different winter conditions
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Many plant species and different populations within species have evolved so that their spring budburst coincides with environmental conditions conducive to growth. Climate change has the potential to alter the signals that plants use, thereby changing the timing of budburst. Station scientists developed a model to predict the timing of budburst for populations of Douglas-fir, the major tree species in northwest forests. It can be used to help assess climate impacts on scales ranging from individual trees to the entire range of coast Douglas-fir.

Contact: Peter Gould
Synthesis of tree responses to climate change - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Several decades of research exist on the potential responses of trees and forests to climate-related stresses. Researchers synthesized more than 400 research articles addressing physiological and ecological responses of trees and forests to variations in climate and associated stresses and disturbance agents. Although based on an international body of research, the synthesis highlights potential climate changes and responses from species and ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. It is organized around key themes: elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, temperature, precipitation, fire, pests, and their interactions, and discusses vulnerabilities and risks from a forestry management perspective. The authors identify options for silvicultural and genetic approaches to managing for forest adaptation.

Contact: Paul D. Anderson
Understanding physical processes of tree development and tree response to warmer climate
Pacific Northwest Research Station

A tree undergoes many physical changes during its life. Leaf physiology, wood structure, mechanical properties, reproductive ability, and interactions with herbivores and pathogens are just some of the features that change as a seedling grows to maturity. Many of these changes are presumed to allow trees to acclimate to the environment and endure for millennia. This research endeavors to understand these processes in order to anticipate tree response to warmer climates.

Contact: Rick Meinzer
Warmer winters likely to expand range of dwarf mistletoe
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Climate is a key control that regulates where tree species and their pathogens can survive. By analyzing forest inventory data, scientists found that hemlock dwarf mistletoe, a leading disease agent for western hemlock, is restricted to the warmer southerly and low elevation forests in Alaska. The absence of dwarf mistletoe in some hemlock forests may be attributed to shorter growing seasons or suggest that snow limits dwarf mistletoe's reproductive dispersal. Both western hemlock and hemlock dwarf mistletoe are projected to benefit from a warmer, less snowy climate. Scientists are projecting the potential distributions of both the tree and disease agent to affect the health of western hemlock forests during the next century in Alaska.

Contact: Paul Hennon
Mycorrhizal fungi and postfire establishment of tree seedlings
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Understanding the complex mechanisms controlling treeline advance or retreat has important implications for projecting ecosystem responses global environmental change. A warming climate not only promotes growth of seedlings and mature trees; it also enhances disturbances, such as fire that leads to further seedling establishment. Researchers examined how the availability of fungal inoculum for the formation of critical mycorrhizas influenced postfire tree seedling establishment.

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