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Brice Hanberry

Brice Hanberry

Research Ecologist

8221 Mt. Rushmore Rd.
Rapid City, SD 57702
Contact Brice Hanberry

Current Research

I am a Research Ecologist with the Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems program of the Rocky Mountain Research Station. My interests include understanding ecosystems under different drivers and integrating ecosystem changes with ecosystem and wildlife management at multiple scales across many extents. Current research involves historical ecosystems of open forests maintained by fire, tree biomass simulations under climate change, and juniper tree encroachment in grasslands and shrublands.

Research Interests

Analysis and management of disturbance effects including fire and fire exclusion, climate change, and land use on terrestrial ecosystems, natural resources, and wildlife at multiple scales, with particular focus on open oak and pine ecosystems. Oak and pine savannas and woodlands are part of a continuum between grasslands and closed forests. The unique bipartite characteristics of grasslands with a tree overstory are not recognized and therefore, undervalued for conservation and management.

Past Research

My past research ranges across many topics, including forests, wildlife, fire, and climate during postgraduate work at University of Missouri and graduate work at Mississippi State University.

Why This Research is Important

Open forests and grasslands have decreased by >98% in the eastern US, while in the Great Plains and western US, open forests and grasslands also have decreased. Birds, pollinators, plants, and other associated species have decreased with habitat loss and fragmentation at landscape scales, and degradation within remnants.


  • Mississippi State University, Ph.D., Forest Resources, 2007
  • Southern Illinois University, M.A., Biological Sciences, 2003
  • Professional Experience

    Research Associate, University of Missouri
    2008 to 2016

    Featured Publications


    Gagnon, Paul R.; Battaglia, Loretta L.; Hanberry, Brice; Conner, William H.; King, Sammy L., 2021. Fire in floodplain forests of the Southeastern USA [Chapter 6]
    Reeves, Matt C.; Hanberry, Brice; Bruggink, Jeffrey L.; Krebs, Michael A.; Campbell, Steven B.; Baggett, Scott, 2020. A novel approach for estimating nonforest carbon stocks in support of forest plan revision
    Reeves, Matt C.; Hanberry, Brice; Wilmer, Hailey; Kaplan, Nicole E.; Lauenroth, William K., 2020. An assessment of production trends on the Great Plains from 1984 to 2017
    Ott, Jacqueline P.; Hanberry, Brice; Khalil, Mona; Paschke, Mark W.; van der Burg, Max Post; Prenni, Anthony J., 2020. Energy development in the Great Plains: Implications and mitigation opportunities
    Hanberry, Brice; Bragg, Don C.; Alexander, Heather D., 2020. Open forest ecosystems: An excluded state
    Hanberry, Brice; DeBano, Sandra J.; Kaye, Thomas N.; Rowland, Mary M.; Hartway, Cynthia R.; Shorrock, Donna, 2020. Pollinators of the Great Plains: Disturbances, stressors, management, and research needs
    Reeves, Matt C.; Hanberry, Brice; Burden, Iric, 2020. Rapidly quantifying drought impacts to aid reseeding strategies
    Bragg, Don C.; Hanberry, Brice; Hutchinson, Todd F.; Jack, Steven B.; Kabrick, John M., 2020. Silvicultural options for open forest management in eastern North America
    Finch, Deborah M.; Baldwin, Carolyn; Brown, David P.; Driscoll, Katelyn P.; Fleishman, Erica; Ford, Paulette L.; Hanberry, Brice; Symstad, Amy J.; Van Pelt, Bill; Zabel, Richard, 2019. Management opportunities and research priorities for Great Plains grasslands
    Hanberry, Brice; Reeves, Matt C.; Brischke, Andrew; Hannemann, Mike; Hudson, Tipton; Mayberry, Richard; Ojima, Dennis; Prendeville, Holly R.; Rangwala, Imtiaz, 2019. Managing Effects of Drought in the Great Plains
    Hanberry, Brice; Thompson, Frank R., 2019. Open forest management for early successional birds
    Hanberry, Brice; Brzuszek, Robert F.; Foster, H. Thomas I; Schauwecker, Timothy J., 2018. Recalling open old growth forests in the Southeastern Mixed Forest province of the United States
    Thompson, Frank R.; Hanberry, Brice; Shifley, Stephen R.; Davidson, Brian K., 2018. Restoration of pine-oak woodlands in Missouri: Using science to inform land management debates and decisions
    Hanberry, Brice; Coursey, Keith; Kush, John S., 2018. Structure and composition of historical longleaf pine ccosystems in Mississippi, USA
    Jin, Wenchi; He, Hong S.; Thompson, Frank R.; Wang, Wen J.; Fraser, Jacob S.; Shifley, Stephen R.; Hanberry, Brice; Dijak, William D., 2017. Future forest aboveground carbon dynamics in the central United States: the importance of forest demographic processes
    Iverson, Louis R.; Thompson, Frank R.; Matthews, Stephen; Peters, Matthew; Prasad, Anantha; Dijak, William D.; Fraser, Jacob; Wang, Wen J.; Hanberry, Brice; He, Hong; Janowiak, Maria; Butler, Patricia; Brandt, Leslie; Swanston, Christopher, 2017. Multi-model comparison on the effects of climate change on tree species in the eastern U.S.: results from an enhanced niche model and process-based ecosystem and landscape models
    Hanberry, Brice; Kabrick, John M.; Dunwiddie, Peter W.; Hartel, Tibor; Jain, Terrie B.; Knapp, Benjamin O., 2017. Restoration of temperate savannas and woodlands [Chapter 11]
    Dijak, William D.; Hanberry, Brice; Fraser, Jacob S.; He, Hong S.; Wang, Wen J.; Thompson, Frank R., 2017. Revision and application of the LINKAGES model to simulate forest growth in central hardwood landscapes in response to climate change
    Hanberry, Brice; He, Hong S.; Shifley, Stephen R., 2016. Loss of aboveground forest biomass and landscape biomass variability in Missouri, US
    Hanberry, Brice; Noss, Reed F.; Safford, Hugh D.; Allison, Stuart K.; Dey, Daniel C., 2015. Restoration Is Preparation for the Future
    Hanberry, Brice; Kabrick, John M.; He, Hong S., 2014. Changing tree composition by life history strategy in a grassland-forest landscape
    A world map coded by temperature, showing many areas exceeding 36 degrees Celsius in the recent past or the future.
    Heat waves lasting days or weeks are among potential hazards expected to increase with climate change. Beyond heat waves, sustained temperatures of ≥ 36°C may be incompatible with high urban population densities. Most land area may exceed 36°C maximum monthly temperature by 2081–2100 under our current fossil-fueled pathway.Heat waves lasting days or weeks are among potential hazards expected to increase with climate change. Beyond heat waves, sustained temperatures of ≥ 36°C may be incompatible with high urban population densities. Most land area may exceed 36°C maximum monthly temperature by 2081–2100 under our current fossil-fueled pathway.
    A deer in a grassy area.
    This research modeled deer densities and land classes, which substantiated that deer occurred at greater densities in deciduous forests and lower densities in agricultural and residential development.
    Open pine forest with grassland understory treated by fire.
    Land use and fire exclusion have influenced ecosystems worldwide, resulting in alternative ecosystem states. Open forests of savannas and woodlands used to be common, with an abundance of native grasses and flowering plants in the southeastern United States. Open pine ecosystems have transitioned to closed forests, primarily comprised of broadleaf species, and loblolly and slash pine plantations.
    A map of the Great Plains grasslands of central North America (outlined) and wind speed, precipitation, precipitation coefficient of variation, and July vapor pressure. The Great Plains overlaps most clearly with wind speed.
    Which factors differentiate central North American grasslands from eastern forests and other surrounding ecosystems has remained a century-long question. To determine which variables delineate the Great Plains grasslands, this research modeled grasslands using climate variables related to precipitation, evapotranspiration, vapor pressure, and wind speed.
    A hillside with open Douglas-fir forest and a grassy understory.
    We documented Douglas-fir open woodlands in the Umatilla National Forest in historical surveys conducted in the late 19th century. Douglas-fir open woodland is an unusual ecosystem type that has not been reconstructed in previous large-scale studies.
    A closeup of a bumble bee on a flower.
    Pollinators are declining in the Great Plains of North America. Reduced or degraded grasslands produce fewer flowers, which pollinators need. Pollinator management can provide resources to help pollinators withstand a variety of interacting stressors and concurrently support functioning rangeland ecosystems.
    Photo of rangeland with scattered brown grasses in brown soil.
    The epic droughts of 2018 in the southwestern US devastated landscapes and economies alike. The Rangeland Production Monitoring System was used to help the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency identify the most affected areas and seek emergency funding to facilitate re-seeding efforts. 
    Pump jacks harvest oil and gas resources from grasslands.
    Major U.S. energy sources – fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), biofuels (ethanol), and wind – are concentrated in grassland ecosystems of the Great Plains. This research synthesized potential ecological effects and mitigation opportunities during renewable and non-renewable energy development in the Great Plains.  
    A map of the United States divided into Western, Mountain, Interior, Northeast, and Southeast regions, with fire occurrences shown in black.
    The wildland–urban interface (WUI) occurs at the intersection of houses and undeveloped wildlands, where fire is a safety concern for communities. Previous definitions of the WUI do not explicitly account for differences in fire risk, but data are now available to use objective measures of fire occurrence to refine the definition by assessing the housing densities where fires actually occurred. 
    A three-panel map of the United States showing the number of extreme fire days.  The first shows the most fire days in the western U.S., the second shows the most in the Southeast, and the third is split between the West and Southeast.
    Overall, U.S. residents will have greater exposure to fire hazard and heat over time due to climate change. Movement to urban centers will help offset exposure to fire but not heat because urban areas are heat islands. Compound risk occurs due to interactions among hazards, resulting in greater risk than the sum of independent events.
    A landscape view of prairie under a stormy sky.
    RMRS and partners convened over 200 Great Plains managers, scientists, and stakeholders to identify stressors and resource demands throughout Great Plains grasslands and how to manage them, highlight knowledge gaps and opportunities for co-produced research, and discuss methods for improved collaboration.
     Northeastern California Plateaus Bioregion Science Synthesis Document Cover
    The new publication, Northeastern California plateaus bioregion science synthesis (Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-409), has a northeastern California focus on sagebrush rangeland, dry pine forestland, juniper forests, habitat and wildlife, society, and response to disturbances, particularly those related to climate.
    A map of the continental United States showing current plant hardiness zones in a scale of colors.
    Research from Rocky Mountain Research Station's Brice Hanberry and Northern Research Station Jacob Fraser shows changes in the ecological boundaries of plant hardiness zones and the Köppen-Trewartha classification system between current climate (1981–2010) and future climate (2070–2099), as well as changing climate within stationary state boundaries of the conterminous United States. Displaying concrete boundary shifts to emphasize potential implications may be more effective than displaying projected increases in temperature, which are seemingly small compared to daily and seasonal temperature variation.
    A grassland stretches out to a blue horizon.
    The Great Plains is the grasslands of the central United States, but precise delineation of this region has evaded agreement due to the transition between Great Plains grasslands and forests of the eastern United States. After comparing Great Plains delineations in readily available GIS (geographic information system) layers, Rocky Mountain Research Station scientist Brice Hanberry established a northeastern boundary using evidence from historical tree surveys during the 1800s.
    A picture of open oak forest with grassland understory treated by fire in Missouri, showing greenery and trees (photo courtesy of C. Kinkead).
    Although not presented in textbooks, open forests were the dominant historical forested ecosystems of the United States. Eastern and western oak forests and southeastern pine forests no longer occur at landscape scales. Management for open oak and pine forests will provide herbaceous habitat, critical to many declining bird and pollinator species.
    Open oak and pine forests, which typically have a treed overstory and grasslands understory, historically were abundant across the United States. Agency investment in large-scale restoration programs begs the question: Do changes of ecological processes follow restoration of structure? 
    There is widespread interest in understanding the effectiveness of fuel treatments in mitigating the trajectory of wildfire suppression costs and how their effectiveness and longevity can be extended over large areas and landscapes. To date, there have been several studies that used a modeling approach to evaluate fuel treatment effectiveness at the landscape scale. However, empirical studies at this scale are rare because landscape-scale fuel treatment strategies have not been fully implemented or wildfires have not burned through implemented landscape fuel treatments. A thorough evaluation of what is currently available in the literature and lessons learned from forest and rangeland managers has not yet been conducted.
    The concepts of ecological resilience and resistance to invasive annual grasses have been used to develop an understanding of sagebrush ecosystem response to disturbances like wildfire and management actions to reduce fuels and restore native ecosystems. A multi-scale framework that uses these concepts to prioritize areas for conservation and restoration at landscape scales and to determine effective management strategies at local scales has been developed by Chambers and her colleagues. Regional SageSTEP (Sagebrush Treatment Evaluation Project) data coupled with west-wide AIM (Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring) data provide a unique opportunity to refine the predictors of resilience and resistance and extend the existing multi-scale framework effort.
    Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in Support of Front Range National Forests and Colorado National Grasslands for Forest Plan Revision, Plan Amendments, and Project-Level Planning.
    RMRS scientists have teamed up with managers and researchers at Bridger-Teton National Forest and Colorado State University to compare herbicide treatments to reduce cheatgrass seedlings, allowing restoration of Native Sagebrush Grassland Plant Communities. ​
    Rangeland managers and livestock producers need timely and consistent tools that can inform grazing strategies, risk management, and allotment management plans. On the ground monitoring is expensive and resources can be limited, making it difficult to do consistently. The new Rangeland Production Monitoring Service can help make monitoring processes more effective and easier to implement.
    The Lassen and Modoc National Forests intend to update their Forest Plans, guided by the 2012 Planning Rule. This requires public and tribal input throughout the process and embraces the fact that ecological, social, and economic objectives are interrelated. Because ecological, social, and economic conditions have changed since the original forest plans were written and new science is available, preparing a science synthesis, guided by input from the public, tribes, and forest staffs, is the first step in a multi-step process that eventually leads to revised forest plans.

    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems