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Science Spotlights

Female greater sage-grouse observed at a high-elevation mountain big sagebrush site, Inyo National Forest, CA, photo by Chris Balzotti, Stanford University, used with permission.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station holds a long legacy in sagebrush and rangeland research dating back to the 1930s. With over 70 years of research on sagebrush ecosystem dynamics as well as mechanisms to manage for resilient and resistant sagebrush ecosystems, Forest Service scientists continue as a leading resource for providing sound science to the management of these landscapes.
Forest plot data is matched to gridded landscape data from LANDFIRE using the random forests method. The output consists of a grid of the IDs for the best-matching plot for each pixel.
https://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/53114Maps of the number, size, and species of trees in forests across the western United States are desirable for a number of applications including estimating terrestrial carbon resources, tree mortality following wildfires, and for forest inventory. However, detailed mapping of trees for large areas is not feasible with current technologies. We used a statistical method called random forests for matching...
Drylands view from a Sky Mountain
Drylands, characterized by scarcity of water, globally support about two billion people. While most of these people live in developing nations, drylands in North America cover an extensive area and have a variety of uses. Drylands are experiencing noticeable stress and degradation from increasing populations and a changing climate, so it is important to know the current conditions and changes that have occurred over time for sustainable...
Armillaria mellea is a parasitic fungus that frequently causes root disease in forests of the US.  Image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Mars 2002 under a Creative Commons License
Growing forests take greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. National forests must account for how natural and management-oriented disturbance processes affect carbon storage as an ecosystem benefit.  Although it doesn’t always cause large, eye-catching areas of mortality, root disease likely affects carbon storage by reducing tree growth and regeneration over vast areas.  However, no previously available tools allowed...
A world map displaying the density of ModelMap downloads
Working in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, we have access to a valuable collection of detailed information about forests on thousands of sample plots distributed across the country. This information is used to produce summaries of forestland characteristics for a variety of geographic areas such as states or individual national forests. We wanted a simple tool to extend this sample data and make detailed maps of forest...
Paul Patterson presenting during the R and Open Foris Calc Workshop in Lima, Peru
Carbon sequestration is an important element in the discussion towards limiting the impacts of climate change. There are proposals to pay tropical countries to maintain their forests to maximize carbon sequestration. Vital to this proposal is the existence of a National Forest Inventory with statistically valid estimates of forest attributes.
Alex Gaffke (front) and Diane Johnson (back) measuring Dalmatian toadflax density and heights on a biocontrol site transect, July 2013.
The impacts of typical weed treatments on both the target weed(s) and non-target plant species that occur in large scale, chronic weed infestations are seldom quantitatively assessed or compared. Further, advantages or disadvantages of making high density ‘inundative’ biocontrol releases to counteract high levels of overwintering mortality affecting agent establishment and increase are seldom documented. Impacts of inundative biocontrol on...
There is new methodology for fitting ecologically feasible “shapes” to time series of Landsat imagery for modeling, mapping, and monitoring annual forest disturbance dynamics. Through a case study of fire, harvest and bark beetle outbreak, scientists illustrate how resultant fitted values and parameters can be fed into empirical models to map disturbance causal agent and tree canopy cover changes coincident with disturbance events through time.
High severity burned patch from the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.
This research evaluates the use of citizen science in a region with increased stress from ongoing drought and wildfires. Researchers show how it allows for inexpensive and statistically rigorous monitoring, and fosters greater local involvement in science and conservation. This information will be used to determine optimal protocols for a long-term monitoring plan. Inexpensive and statistically rigorous long-term monitoring fosters local...
Westslope cutthroat trout, native to the Columbia River and upper Missouri River hybridize with introduced rainbow trout and have been extirpated from large portions of their historical range.
Hybridization between westslope cutthroat trout and both rainbow trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a major conservation concern for the species.  A new broad-scale analysis of hybridization patterns found many pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout in headwaters streams.

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