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Jeanne C. Chambers

Jeanne C. Chambers
Scientist Emeritus
Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems
920 Valley Road
Reno, NV 89512
United States
Current Research

Much of my current research focuses on (1) developing an understanding of the factors that determine ecological resistance to invasive species and that affect ecological resilience to disturbances like wildfire, and (2) using that information to develop effective management and restoration approaches. Study systems include arid and semi-arid shrublands, woodlands, riparian ecosystems and alpine ecosystems.

Past Research

My research has focused on the ecology, restoration, and management of ecosystems in the western US.

  • My early research focused on restoration of severely disturbed ecosystems with an emphasis on alpine areas. This work increased understanding of seed dispersal and seedling establishment processes in these ecosystems and was published in various journals including Ecology.
  • A major effort in which I am still involved focuses on restoring and maintaining riparian and meadow ecosystems with an emphasis on the Great Basin. This interdisciplinary work involves geomorphologists, hydrologists and plant ecologists, and resulted in numerous synthetic publications including a book and GTR on the factors affecting stream, riparian ecosystem, and meadow dynamics.
  • A long-term focus of my research has been on understanding effects of global change processes and management actions in Cold Desert shrublands and woodlands. This work has emphasized understanding the importance of environmental and productivity gradients on ecosystem response to (1) annual grass invasion, (2) woodland expansion, and (3) wildfire and management actions such as prescribed fire and tree cutting.
  • Consistent elements of my research include increasing understanding of relationships among environmental factors (precipitation, temperature), ecosytem attributes (soil water and nutrient availability) and biotic processes (plant establishment and community productivity).
Research Interest
My research interests include: 1) disturbance/restoration ecology, 2) global change processes, 3) invasive species, especially annual grasses, and 4) arid and semi-arid shrublands, woodlands, riparian ecosystems and alpine ecosystems.
Why This Research Is Important

Developing an understanding of ecosystem resistance to invasive species and resilience to disturbance is essential for prioritizing management activities across the landscape and developing the most effective actions. This requires knowledge of the environmental factors and abiotic and biotic attributes and processes that determine ecosystem responses to global change and management actions. My colleagues and I have developed this information for key ecosystems in the Cold Deserts Ecoregion.

  • Riparian and meadow ecosystems - A process based approach has been developed for maintaining and restoring these ecosystems that is based on knowledge of their geomorphology, hydrology and vegetation communities. This work has been synthesized in a 2004 Island Press book and a 2011 RMRS GTR-258. In 2021, an RMRS GTR-426 was published on the geomorphic sensitivity and eclogical resilience of Great Basin streams and riparain ecosystems  It provides both the conceptual basis and an assessment protocol for evaluating geomorphic sensitivity and ecological resilience.
  • Cold Desert shrublands - The conceptual basis for evaluating Cold Desert shrublands based on resistance to invasion and resilience to disturbance has been developed, and an integrated, strategic approach for categorizing these shrublands based on their relative resilience and resistance has been devised. This work has been used to link ecosystem resilience and resistance with species conservation requirements, specifically Greater Sage-Grouse, and is being used to prioritize land management actions to decrease the threats of invasive annual grasses and wildfire by both BLM and FS in sagebrush ecosystems.
  • Utah State University, Ph.D., Biology/ Ecology, 1987
  • Utah State University, M.S., Range Science, 1979
  • Idaho State University, B.S., Wildlife Conservation, 1975
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

A Comprehensive Look at Pinyon and Juniper Woodlands in the Western U.S.

Year: 2020
Pinyon and juniper woodlands occupy over 70,000 square miles of the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau, extending across a climatic gradient from eastern Oregon to the Four Corners of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Both land managers and the communities that depend on these woodlands are con...

A Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome: Management Applications

Year: 2019
An unprecedented conservation effort is underway across 11 western states to address threats to sagebrush ecosystems and the many species that depend on them. The USDA Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior released the Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the...

Fire patterns in piñon and juniper in the Western United States: Trends from 1984 through 2013

Year: 2018
By looking at 30 years of fire data in piñon and juniper landscapes in the western United States, researchers were able to analyze differences in total area burned, fire rotation, fire size and number, and length of fire season among different geographic scales. 

Conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biome

Year: 2017
Land management agencies face the need for effective strategic conservation actions for the conservation and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems. For nearly a century, the Forest Service has studied sagebrush ecosystems and sagebrush obligate species such as sage-grouse with a focus on threats such ...

Managing Invasive Annual Brome Grasses and Altered Fire Regimes

Year: 2016
Invasive annual brome grasses are resulting in altered fire regimes and conversion of native arid and semi-arid ecosystems in the western United States to annual grass dominance. The problem is particularly acute in sagebrush shrublands where cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has resulted in annual grass...

Resilience Science is Key to Effective Restoration of Imperiled Sagebrush Ecosystems

Year: 2015
Sagebrush ecosystems and the more than 350 species that rely on them are highly imperiled due to persistent threats such as invasive annual grasses, pinyon and juniper expansion, and altered fire regimes. Understanding their relative resilience or recovery potential following wildfire or management ...

New Research on Resilience of Sagebrush Ecosystems Used for Improving Sage-grouse Habitat

Year: 2014
New research from the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station on sagebrush ecosystems is being put to use to benefit Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on federal lands across the intermountain west. An interagency effort initiated by the Western Association of Wildlife agencies and led by Grassla...