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Climate Change

Science Spotlights

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...
Mt. Jefferson, covered in snow, is highly visible behind a burned section of pine trees.
A new tool developed through collaboration between RMRS and researchers at Oregon State University tracks treefall through time and may just save lives. Researchers found that snag hazard to fire responders decreased significantly 10-years post fire, but that in some areas, unsafe conditions could last as long as 35 years. Maps of snag hazard risk can be used by decision makers and fire responders to reduce exposure and improve the safety of...
Photograph from on top of a hill looking down on a landscape of dead and dying trees. Green vegetation in the foreground, blue skies with big white clouds in the background.
To conserve and promote biological diversity, land managers must identify suitable habitat for species of conservation concern. Managers can then restrict potentially detrimental activities (e.g., salvage logging) to areas of lower habitat suitability, and target beneficial activities (e.g., restoration) where habitat suitability is higher. We developed FIRE-BIRD, an ArcGIS tool, to map habitat suitability for disturbance-associated woodpeckers...
Ponderosa pine regeneration is sensitive to moisture availability and have limited seed dispersal. Ponderosa forest recovery can be delayed following disturbance. Drier and hotter conditions may reduce ponderosa regeneration (Photo by R. Addington, TNC).
Understanding the structure of understory vegetation in forests is critical for estimating carbon stocks, fuel loading, and assessing wildlife habit. Using nationally collected inventory data shows promise in providing better estimates and assessments in these areas over large geographical regions.
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.
The riparian vegetation along the upper Gila River in southwestern New Mexico has high richness of woody plants and extremely high densities of nesting birds including the Federally endangered and threatened species
Rivers and streams of the American Southwest have been heavily altered by human activity, resulting in significant changes to disturbance regimes. Riparian vegetation in aridland floodplain systems is critically important as foraging, migrating, and breeding habitat to birds and other animal species. To conserve riparian ecosystems and organisms, understanding how plants and animals are affected by disturbance processes and multiple stressors is...
Woody residues resulting from harvest operations in Mississippi
Land managers recognize that maintaining soil health during harvest operations is important for ensuring hydrologic function, nutrient cycling, vegetative regrowth, and stable carbon reserves. However, during salvage logging operations many of these values may be at risk because of soil disturbance associated with equipment movement on a site. Communicating with specialists about the importance of maintaining soil quality resulted in very little...
Will climate warming be good or bad for mountain pine beetle?
Insects are expected to be favored by climate change as warm winters increase survival and warm summers speed up development. Many species, however, have adapted to seasonal aspects of their environment and warming that occurs too fast may disrupt their way of life. A research-based temperature-driven model suggests that within the next few decades mountain pine beetle range retraction may occur in the United States as its lifecycle is disrupted...
The photo shows a young long-needled pine tree less than a foot tall growing next to a wooden marker with the number 6 on it.
The Regeneration for Resilience (R4R) framework provides a decision structure to prioritize limited resources and utilize seedling planting and natural regeneration management to offer the best likelihood of success in positioning stands and landscapes to support resilience self-sustaining tree populations that are threatened by invasive pests. Effective management of forest regeneration dynamics can increase forest resilience and adaptive...