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Monitoring trends in ecosystem productivity: Identifying drivers and indices of change

May, 2015 to May, 2017

Boundary for study on climate change, ecosystem productivity, and disturbances.
Boundary for study on climate change, ecosystem productivity, and disturbances.
Climate is a major driver of spatial and temporal patterns in primary productivity. Relating trends in ecosystem productivity to climate across the United States will enhance our understanding of how climate change will influence ecosystem productivity in the future and support climate change adaptation and mitigation activities.

This research evaluates forest and rangeland conditions across the United States by monitoring changes in ecosystem productivity and disturbance in response to climate. The objectives of this work are to:

  • Evaluate spatial and temporal trends in ecosystem productivity and climate to identify areas most susceptible to  increases or decreases in productivity and phase changes in ecosystem classes.

  • Identify climate conditions associated with high susceptibility to disturbance from drought, wildfire, insect outbreaks and pathogens; monitor how these events influence ecosystem productivity; and estimate the probability of disturbance occurring in the future.


By examining the interaction between climate, ecosystem productivity, and disturbance, we hope to increase our understanding of vulnerable and resilient ecosystems by defining baseline and ecosystem conditions, and evaluating the influence of climate and the proximity to disturbance on disturbance susceptibility. This research has developed and will continue to develop techniques to use climatological, ecological and disturbance-based information from diverse sources to enhance our understanding of ecosystem vulnerability to changes in climate and disturbance regimes. Thresholds identified are essential for understanding which ecosystems are likely to maintain, increase, or decrease carbon sequestration rates under future climate and disturbance regimes.

Michael G Ryan - Colorado State University

Funding Contributors:
USDA Forest Service Resource Planning Act