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Mike A. Battaglia

Mike Battaglia

Research Forester

Address: 
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526-2098
Phone: 
970-498-1286
Fax: 
970-498-1010
Contact Mike A. Battaglia

Current Research

  1. Evaluating how spatially complex forest structures influence tree regeneration establishment and growth.
  2. Identifying spatially explicit reference conditions for ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forest of the Colorado Front Range and the South Dakota Black Hills 
  3. Assessing spatially heterogeneous forest structure impact on fire behavior in ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests. 
  4. Characterizing patterns of post-fire tree regeneration across fire severities. 
  5. Adaptive Silvicultural Strategies for Climate Change in dry mixed conifer forests. 
  6. Utilizing long-term growth studies to validate and calibrate the Forest Vegetation Simulator. 
  7. Facilitating the use of prescribed fire as a management tool. 
  8. Understanding tree regeneration dynamics after insect outbreaks and subsequent forest management activities.
  9. Understanding the short and long-term ecological responses of mastication fuels reduction treatments in woodlands, dry, and moist coniferous forests.

Scientist in charge of Black Hills Experimental Forest: https://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/experimental-forests-and-ranges/black-hills-e...

Research Interests

I am interested in developing and implementing innovative management strategies to enhance forest resiliency to disturbances and evaluating the subsequent ecological impacts of these activities. These research topics include restoration strategies for ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests, forest stand dynamics post-disturbance, various methods of hazardous fuels reduction treatments, and developing silvicultural strategies that incorporate the uncertainty of climate change.

Past Research

  1. Synthesizing manager's knowledge/experience and scientific literature of implementing hazardous fuels treatments practices in ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests.
  2. Post-wildfire recovery.
  3. Fire-induced mortality thresholds of ponderosa pine seedlings and saplings.
  4. Fuel succession and regeneration dynamics.
  5. Understanding the interaction of mountain pine beetle and management strategies on fuel dynamics, forest structure, and potential fire behavior.

Why This Research is Important

Historically, silviculture was often synonymous with timber production; however, contemporary silviculturists manage forests for other objectives such as wildlife habitat, increased resilience to disturbances and climate change, water, recreation, and aesthetics. Practitioners require science-based knowledge to design treatments that achieve these objectives. Because of the uncertainty in the impacts of climate change to our forests, research is needed to determine the effects of various management alternatives and adapt silvicultural strategies, systems, and practices to sustain and enhance the productivity of our forested ecosystems.

Education

  • University of South Carolina, B.S., Biology, 1995
  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, M.S., Forestry, 2000
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Ph.D., Forest Science; Silviculture/Fire, 2007
  • Professional Experience

    Research Forester, RMRS
    2011 to present

    Postdoctoral Ecologist, RMRS
    2007 to 2011

    Silvicultural Research Associate, Contractor with RMRS
    2001 to 2004

    Professional Organizations

    • Association for Fire Ecology, Member ( 2007 to present )
      Attend and Present at Conferences.
    • International Association of Wildland Fire, Member ( 2007 to present )
      Attend and Present at Conferences.
    • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Member ( 1997 to present )
      Science and Technology Chair, Attend and Present at Conventions.
    • Society of Ecological Restoration, Member ( 2019 to present )

    Awards

    Technology Transfer Publication, 2017
    Visualization of heterogeneous forest structure following treatment in the southern Rocky Mountains. https://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/publications/visualization-heterogeneous-forest-structures-following-treatment-southern-rocky
    Early Career Scientist Award, 2014
    Technology Transfer Publication, 2014
    A comprehensive guide to fuels management practices in dry mixed conifer forests in the Northwestern United States. https://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/publications/comprehensive-guide-fuel-management-practices-dry-mixed-conifer-forests-northwestern
    Civil Rights Award, 2013

    Featured Publications

    Publications

    Dey, Daniel C.; Knapp, Benjamin O.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Deal, Robert L.; Hart, Justin L.; O'Hara, Kevin L.; Schweitzer, Callie J.; Schuler, Thomas M., 2019. Barriers to natural regeneration in temperate forests across the USA
    Hessburg, Paul F.; Miller, Carol L.; Parks, Sean A.; Povak, Nicholas A.; Taylor, A. H.; Higuera, P. E.; Prichard, S. J.; North, Malcolm P.; Collins, Brandon M.; Hurteau, M. D.; Larson, A. J.; Allen, C. D.; Stephens, S. L.; Rivera-Huerta, H.; Stevens-Rumann, C. S.; Daniels, L. D.; Gedalof, Z.; Gray, R. W.; Kane, Van R.; Churchill, D. J.; Hagmann, R. K.; Spies, Thomas A.; Cansler, C. A.; Belote, R. T.; Veblen, T. T.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Hoffman, C.; Skinner, Carl N.; Safford, H. D.; Salter, R., 2019. Climate, environment, and disturbance history govern resilience of Western North American forests
    Graham, Russell T.; Asherin, Lance A.; Jain, Terrie B.; Baggett, Scott; Battaglia, Mike A., 2019. Differing ponderosa pine forest structures, their growth and yield, and mountain pine beetle impacts: Growing stock levels in the Black Hills
    Brown, Peter M.; Gannon, Benjamin; Battaglia, Mike A.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Cheng, Antony S.; Baggett, Scott, 2019. Identifying old trees to inform ecological restoration in montane forests of the central Rocky Mountains, USA
    Mattson, Lucas R.; Coop, Jonathan D.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Cheng, Antony S.; Sibold, Jason S.; Viner, Sara, 2019. Post-spruce beetle timber salvage drives short-term surface fuel increases and understory vegetation shifts
    Miller, Sue; Addington, Rob; Aplet, Greg; Battaglia, Mike A.; Cheng, Tony; Feinstein, Jonas; Underhill, Jeff, 2018. Back to the Future: Building resilience in Colorado Front Range forests using research findings and a new guide for restoration of ponderosa and dry-mixed conifer landscapes
    Cannon, Jeffery B.; Barrett, Kevin J.; Gannon, Benjamin M.; Addington, Robert N.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Aplet, Gregory H.; Cheng, Antony S.; Underhill, Jeffrey L.; Briggs, Jennifer S.; Brown, Peter M., 2018. Collaborative restoration effects on forest structure in ponderosa pine-dominated forests of Colorado
    Bigelow, Seth; Stambaugh, Michael C.; O'Brien, Joseph J.; Larson, Andrew J.; Battaglia, Mike A., 2018. Longleaf pine restoration in context comparisons of frequent fire forests
    Malone, Sparkle L.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Chambers, Marin E.; Iniguez, Jose; Sieg, Carolyn H., 2018. Mixed-severity fire fosters heterogeneous spatial patterns of conifer regeneration in a dry conifer forest
    Hoffman, Chad M.; Collins, Brandon; Battaglia, Mike A., 2018. Wildland fuel treatments
    Gleason, Kelly E.; Bradford, John B.; Bottero, Alessandra; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Fraver, Shawn; Palik, Brian J.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Iverson, Louis; Kenefic, Laura; Kern, Christel C., 2017. Competition amplifies drought stress in forests across broad climatic and compositional gradients
    Bottero, Alessandra; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Palik, Brian J.; Bradford, John B.; Fraver, Shawn; Battaglia, Mike A.; Asherin, Lance A., 2017. Density-dependent vulnerability of forest ecosystems to drought
    Fornwalt, Paula J.; Rocca, Monique E.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Rhoades, Charles C.; Ryan, Michael G., 2017. Mulching fuels treatments promote understory plant communities in three Colorado, USA, coniferous forest types
    Owen, Suzanne M.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Meador, Andrew J. Sanchez.; Fule, Peter Z.; Iniguez, Jose; Baggett, Scott; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Battaglia, Mike A., 2017. Spatial patterns of ponderosa pine regeneration in high-severity burn patches
    Ziegler, Justin P.; Hoffman, Chad M.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Chambers, Marin E.; Iniguez, Jose, 2017. Tree regeneration spatial patterns in ponderosa pine forests following stand-replacing fire: Influence of topography and neighbors
    Buechling, Arne; Martin, Patrick H.; Canham, Charles D.; Shepperd, Wayne D.; Battaglia, Mike A., 2016. Climate drivers of seed production in Picea engelmannii and response to warming temperatures in the southern Rocky Mountains
    Lehman, Chadwick P.; Rumble, Mark A.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Mills, Todd R.; Asherin, Lance A., 2016. Influence of mountain pine beetle epidemic on winter habitat conditions for Merriam's turkeys: Management implications for current and future condition
    Graham, Russell T.; Asherin, Lance A.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Jain, Terrie B.; Mata, Stephen A., 2016. Mountain pine beetles: A century of knowledge, control attempts, and impacts central to the Black Hills
    Tinkham, Wade T.; Hoffman, Chad M.; Ex, Seth A.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Saralecos, Jarred D., 2016. Ponderosa pine forest restoration treatment longevity: Implications of regeneration on fire hazard
    Brown, Peter M.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Gannon, Benjamin; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Julian, Chad; Cheng, Antony S., 2015. Historical (1860) forest structure in ponderosa pine forests of the northern Front Range, Colorado
    Jain, Terrie B.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Han, Han-Sup; Graham, Russell T.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Fried, Jeremy S.; Sandquist, Jonathan, 2014. A comprehensive guide to fuel management practices for dry mixed conifer forests in the northwestern United States: Inventory and model-based economic analysis of mechanical fuel treatments
    Jain, Terrie B.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Han, Han-Sup; Graham, Russell T.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Fried, Jeremy S.; Sandquist, Jonathan, 2014. A comprehensive guide to fuel management practices for dry mixed conifer forests in the northwestern United States: Mechanical, chemical, and biological fuel treatment methods
    Jain, Terrie B.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Han, Han-Sup; Graham, Russell T.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Fried, Jeremy S.; Sandquist, Jonathan, 2014. A comprehensive guide to fuel management practices for dry mixed conifer forests in the northwestern United States: Monitoring
    Jain, Terrie B.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Han, Han-Sup; Graham, Russell T.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Fried, Jeremy S.; Sandquist, Jonathan, 2014. A comprehensive guide to fuel management practices for dry mixed conifer forests in the northwestern United States: Prescribed fire
    Dickinson, Yvette L.; Addington, Rob; Aplet, Greg; Babler, Mike; Battaglia, Mike A.; Brown, Peter; Cheng, Tony; Cooley, Casey; Edwards, Dick; Feinstein, Jonas; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Gibbs, Hal; Matonis, Megan; Pelz, Kristen A.; Regan, Claudia, 2014. Desirable forest structures for a restored Front Range
    Miller, Sue; Jain, Terrie B.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Han, Han-Sup; Graham, Russell T.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Fried, Jeremy S.; Sandquist, Jonathan, 2014. Science You Can Use Bulletin: Revisiting disturbance: A new guide for keeping dry mixed conifer forests healthy through fuel management
    Fule, Peter Z.; Swetnam, Thomas W.; Brown, Peter M.; Falk, Donald A.; Peterson, David L.; Allen, Craig D.; Aplet, Gregory H.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Binkley, Dan; Farris, Calvin; Keane II, Robert E.; Margolis, Ellis Q.; Grissino-Mayer, Henri; Miller, Carol L.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Skinner, Carl; Stephens, Scott L.; Taylor, Alan, 2014. Unsupported inferences of high-severity fire in historical dry forests of the western United States: Response to Williams and Baker
    Collins, Bryon J.; Rhoades, Charles C.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Hubbard, Robert M., 2012. Effects of salvage logging on fire risks after bark beetle outbreaks in Colorado lodgepole pine forests
    Rhoades, Charles C.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Rocca, M. E.; Ryan, Michael G., 2012. Short- and medium-term effects of fuel reduction mulch treatments on soil nitrogen availability in Colorado conifer forests
    Klutsch, Jennifer G.; Battaglia, Mike A.; West, Daniel R.; Costello, Sheryl L.; Negron, Jose, 2011. Evaluating potential fire behavior in lodgepole pine-dominated forests after a mountain pine beetle epidemic in north-central Colorado
    Collins, Byron J.; Rhoades, Charles C.; Hubbard, Robert M.; Battaglia, Mike A., 2011. Tree regeneration and future stand development after bark beetle infestation and harvesting in Colorado lodgepole pine stands
    Sharik, Terry L.; Adair, William; Baker, Fred A.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Comfort, Emily J.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Delong, Craig; DeRose, R. Justin; Ducey, Mark J.; Harmon, Mark; Levy, Louise; Logan, Jesse A.; O'Brien, Joseph; Palik, Brian J.; Roberts, Scott D.; Rogers, Paul C.; Shinneman, Douglas J.; Spies, Thomas; Taylor, Sarah L.; Woodall, Christopher; Youngblood, Andrew, 2010. Emerging themes in the ecology and management of North American forests
    Battaglia, Mike A.; Nelson, Kellen; Kashian, Dan; Ryan, Michael G., 2010. Forest biomass and tree planting for fossil fuel offsets in the Colorado Front Range
    Battaglia, Mike A.; Rocca, Monique E.; Rhoades, Charles C.; Ryan, Michael G., 2010. Surface fuel loadings within mulching treatments in Colorado coniferous forests
    Seidenberg, Joseph; Springer, Judy; Nicolet, Tessa; Battaglia, Mike A.; Vothja, Christina, 2009. Southwest Ecological Restoration Institutes (SWERI) Biophysical Monitoring Workshop Report
    Battaglia, Mike A.; Shepperd, Wayne D., 2007. Ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, and spruce-fir forests [Chapter 2]
    Pecot, Stephen D.; Horsley, Stephen B.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Mitchell, Robert J., 2005. The influence of canopy, sky condition, and solar angle on light quality in a longleaf pine woodland
    Battaglia, Mike A.; Mitchell, Robert J.; Mou, Paul P.; Pecot, Stephen D., 2003. Light transmittance estimates in a longleaf pine woodland
    Prescribed crown fire at Manning Creek, Fishlake National Forest. Photo credit: Roger Ottmar. Photo taken: June 2019
    The broad consensus among fire and fuel scientists and managers is that we need to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations on many more acres to mitigate the risk and severity of wildfires. But mechanical fuel treatments are expensive! Prescribed fire is a more cost effective tool to reduce fuel loads and to restore and maintain fuel conditions to something closer to the historical norm.
    Engelmann spruce stand in a long-term seed production study on the Fraser Experimental Forest, Colorado.
    In 1968, thirteen permanent research plots were established in Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir forests along an elevational gradient on the Fraser Experimental Forest. Seed traps were installed on these plots and have been sampled annually since 1968. In 2011, tree cores were sampled to examine the relationship between climate and seed production.
    Northern goshawk research technician standing in an example of an idealized ponderosa pine forest on the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona.
    Throughout the Rocky Mountains over the last century, large ponderosa pine trees provided lumber for growing cities and towns, along with fuel and timber for the mining and railroad industries. Most of these forests are now occupied by dense young and mid-aged forests highly susceptible to being killed by bark beetles and burned by wildfires. These conditions have been exacerbated by fire suppression and urban encroachment. As a result, knowledge is needed to inform management actions directed at restoring and conserving ponderosa pine forests. 
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    In the mid-1800s, Colorado’s Front Range forests were more open and two to three times less dense than they are today. Today, these forests have become far more dense and crowded with smaller trees which has inherently increased vulnerability to large wildfires, insect epidemics and disease. RMRS-GTR-373 is a guide to place-based restoration of ponderosa and dry mixed-conifer forests targeted to land managers working in the Colorado Front Range and beyond. This synthesis resulted from a unique collaboration of authors.
    Mulched stands at a ponderosa pine – Douglas-fir study area, 6–9 years post-treatment.
    Mulching fuels treatments have been increasingly implemented by forest managers in the western USA to reduce crown fire hazard. These treatments use heavy machinery to masticate or chip unwanted shrubs and small-diameter trees and broadcast the mulched material on the ground. Because mulching treatments are relatively novel and have no natural analog, their ecological impacts are poorly understood.  
    Example of a forest structure suitable for northern goshawks and producing high quality timber
    Wildlife habitat and timber production are critical elements of the management of many National Forests. The Black Hills National Forest has provided a thriving timber economy for over 100 years. The forest also provides habitat for the northern goshawk, which has been severely impacted by mountain pine beetles. 
    Figure 1. A post-fire ponderosa pine seedling in a high-severity burn patch of the 2000 Pumpkin Fire, Arizona.
    Over the past three decades, wildfires in southwestern United States ponderosa pine forests have increased in size and severity, leaving large patches of tree mortality. Ponderosa pine evolved under fire regimes dominated by low- to moderate-severity wildfires, and they are poorly adapted to regenerating in large patches of high-severity fire. There is concern about these high-severity burn patches because the lack of seed-producing trees can prevent or significantly delay ponderosa pine regeneration.
    Caption: A restoration treatment that incorporates both horizontal  and vertical elements. Pike National Forest.  Photo: Mike Battaglia.
    Restoration in historically frequent fire forests of the western U.S. often attempts to restore the historical characteristics of forest structure and fire behavior. However, most of our attempts to assess the success of meeting these targets relies on non-spatial metrics of forest stand structure as well as the use of fire behavior models that lack the ability to handle complex forest structures. In this study, we used spatially explicit forest inventory data and a physics-based fire behavior model to investigate the effects of variable retention harvests on forest spatial complexity (horizontally and vertically) and potential fire behavior. 
    Young trees act as ladder fuel when they grow under large trees on Back Hills Experimental Forest Service.
    Scientists across four experimental forests (Preist River, Black Hills, Boise Basin, and Deception Creek) worked to provide a suite of ecosystem services from removing fuels to implementing new strategies. Treatment goals were to increase the diversity of forest conditions across the landscapes and provide for a variety of ecosystem service, such as wildlife habitat, wild berries, wood for construction, and hunting opportunities.  
    A recently implemented science-based ponderosa pine restoration treatment site on the Pike National Forest near Manitou Experimental Forest (photo by Mike A Battaglia).
    Ponderosa pine forests vary greatly from region to region across the western United States. Our research on the Colorado Front Range demonstrates that ponderosa pine forest structure was historically a mixture of openings, single trees, and groups of two - five trees growing together. There were a variety of age classes within a stand and tree diameters were generally smaller than those observed in other regions.
    In 1968, thirteen permanent research plots were established in Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir forests along an elevational gradient on the Fraser Experimental Forest. Seed traps were installed on these plots and have been sampled annually since 1968.  
    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 Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE) is a large-scale interagency effort to identify how fuels, fire behavior, fire energy and meteorology interact to determine the dynamics of smoke plumes, the long-range transport of smoke and local fire effects such as soil heating and vegetative response. FASMEE is designed to collect observations from large prescribed fires by combining Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), radar, ground monitoring, aircraft and satellite imagery, and weather and atmospheric measurements. Knowing more about how wildland fire operates helps land managers better predict fire behavior, smoke impacts, and the short- to long-term effects of fire. It also promotes increased public and firefighter safety and aids in the allocation of firefighting resources.
    Large acreages of Engelmann spruce forests are being impacted by the spruce bark beetle. The majority of the overstory has experienced mortality in previously managed and unmanaged stands. Our goal is to understand the tree regeneration dynamics of these areas which are being currently being managed to recover the dead overstory. 
    Through fire management and riparian ecosystem restoration RMRS researchers Terrie Jain, Kate Dwire, and Travis Warziniack are partnering with the University of Idaho and the Idaho City Ranger District to develop, implement, and evaluate different adaptive management strategies to improve the fire resiliency of the Boise National Forest. 
    RMRS scientists and staff have started an intensive project with the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest, along with other cooperators such as Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, to develop a comprehensive plan for fire management on the forest. This project will rely on the Cohesive Strategy framework and will bring in many cooperators.
    The ForBio Southwest project examines sustainability, energy balance and emissions from forest restoration efforts in the Southern Rocky Mountains. Using a retrospective study, researchers are measuring short-term ecological responses to thinning and prescribed burning, with alternative levels of biomass harvest, and will quantify changes in stand structure, plant species composition, and the quantity and distribution of fuels, as well as the impacts on soils, coarse woody debris, tree regeneration, and plant diversity. The project will run until the end of 2019.
    Wildfire has long been an important and complex disturbance agent in forests dominated by ponderosa pine in the western United States. However, many recent fires have burned with increased severity across large, contiguous areas, resulting in vast expanses with no surviving overstory trees. Researchers are looking at regeneration rates inponderosa pine forests after high-severity fires and examining the spatial patterns and environmental conditions in affected areas to help managers anticipate natural recovery and plan for post-fire management activities.
    There is an urgent need to develop adaptive management strategies that foster ecosystem resilience to the impact of climate change and enable forests to adapt to uncertain future conditions. This project utilizes a scientist-land manager partnership to develop, implement, and measure ecological responses in a large-scale replicated study of three adaptive management treatments strategies in the dry mixed conifer forest type.
    Restoration projects are being implemented across large scales in fire-frequent forests to simultaneously modify forest structure complexity and reduce potential crown fire hazards. However, there has been little assessment of the ability for these projects to simultaneously meet the objectives of increasing spatial diversity and reducing wildfire hazards.

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