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Science Spotlights

A closeup of a gloved hand in a stream holding a funnel attached to a hose.
Environmental DNA methods are highly sensitive and accurate, making them ideal for detecting animals at low densities. However, this tool also come with its own unique set of challenges when applied to efforts to eradicate invasive species. This research explores the use of eDNA for evaluating invasive species eradication efforts in streams and offers best practices for incorporating eDNA methods into invasive species removal projects.
An FIA researcher in PPE sits in a forest recording data.
All plot data in the Forest Inventory and Analysis database (FIADB) are being made available to users of the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS). The improved availability of data in this format will facilitate forest analysis and planning, using the FVS capability to simulate a wide variety of forest treatments and disturbances.  
Map showing distribution of aboveground forest biomass in the Pacific and Inland Northwest
The 2012 Forest Service Planning rule requires that National Forests incorporate into their forest management plans mitigation and adaptation strategies in response to climate change. The Carbon Monitoring System provides annual biomass maps spanning 2000-2016 that will be useful for developing carbon budgets for National Forests and identifying areas needing fuel treatments to reduce wildfire risk. The underlying foundation of this work is...
Cover of FAO report Trees, forests, and land use in drylands: the first global assessment - full report
Drylands cover 41 percent of the earth’s surface and are home to nearly 2 billion people. Despite lacking water, they are vital, productive landscapes providing food, fiber, and habitat that people and animals depend on to survive. RMRS scientists contributed expertise on North American drylands to the groundbreaking Food and Agriculture Organization publication Trees, forests and land use in drylands: the first global assessment. This first-of-...
An example of riparian areas assessed by this project. This photograph shows Bear Valley Creek on the Salmon-Challis National Forest with a shallow gradient and wide valley bottom meandering through depositional material. Photo by D.M. Smith, USFS.
Riparian zones – boundaries between land and rivers or streams – are often overlooked, but are critical for the healthy function of watersheds and ecosystems. The Rocky Mountain Research Station has worked with the USDA Forest Service Intermountain Region to develop targeted maps and assessments of riparian zones in several National Forests that will inform future management and planning efforts. 
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,...
Watershed following the Las Conchas Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest. Credit goes to: Anna Jaramillo-Scarborough
Wildfires, an important natural disturbance in southwestern ecosystems, can present challenges to resource managers, communities, and private landowners when they burn areas subject to post-fire flooding and erosion. Many government agencies and research institutions have developed science and management tools for estimating post-fire effects and mitigating risks in burned landscapes. We assessed the utility of currently available tools and...
Big sage mountain brush
An unprecedented conservation effort is underway across 11 Western states to address threats to sagebrush ecosystems and the many species that depend on them. Today, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior released the Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome (Part 2). The Science Framework provides a transparent, ecologically responsible approach for making policy and management decisions...
Whitebark pine sapling, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho
Forest inventory data show that more than half of all standing whitebark pine trees in the U.S. are dead. Regeneration of whitebark pine is widespread, especially in lodgepole pine stands, which suggests that active management of whitebark pine should target mixed-species stands to take advantage of natural regeneration. 
Photo of a fen with floating mat on the water. The mat has Carex limosa and Sphagnum mosses
Mountain fens (peat-accumulating wetlands) are groundwater-dependent habitats (i.e. groundwater dependent ecosystems) protected under the Clean Water Act and other federal mandates in the United States. There is increasing interest in documenting and monitoring the occurrence and characteristics of fens. In addition to supporting unusual plants, fens are sites of carbon and water storage and long-term ecological stability, since the underlying...