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Ecology

Science Spotlights

Border fence running through a forested area
Protected areas serve as an essential tool for conserving biodiversity. However, their ability to protect currently extant organisms is challenged as species shift their ranges in response to a warming climate. This raises the question as to whether species currently resident in protected areas will find other protected areas with similar future climate conditions to which to move.
Mountainous forested landscape in summer
The report includes descriptive highlights and tables of area, numbers of trees, biomass, volume, growth, and mortality on forested lands. Also included are analyses on wildlife habitat and a case study that uses the Forest Vegetation Simulator tool to project possible future conditions of the Pinyon-juniper woodlands that dominate Nevada’s forested landscape. 
Spotted owl resting on branch
A major barrier to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration has been concern over potential impacts to sensitive old-forest species, like the spotted owl. This study shows that contrary to common perceptions, forest restoration is expected to provide net benefits to spotted owls through reducing their exposure to stand-replacing wildfire.
Forested landscape of a mixed severity fire showing a mosaic burn pattern
There is a popular hypothesis in the scientific literature that ‘pyrodiversity begets biodiversity’ – that is, places with more variety in fire characteristics (e.g., severity, time-since-fire) will support more species of plants and animals. But empirical support for the hypothesis is mixed. We synthesized the literature on pyrodiversity, attempted to explain why evidence for the hypothesis is so mixed, and set out a path for clarifying this...
Wildfire in Alaskan black spruce forest. Photo by Laona DeWilde.
Fire severity mapping based on satellite imagery has shown mixed success in the North American boreal forest.  We present a new method that takes advantage of cloud-based computing and image repository and demonstrates promise for improving satellite-derived fire severity estimates in these forests.
Figure showing maps of maintain/protect/restore strategies, criterion areas, and graphs of revenue/cost/profit.
Data-driven decision making is the key to providing effective and efficient wildfire protection and sustainable use of natural resources. We prototyped a spatially explicit approach to data driven decision making to describe wildfire risk and the condition and costs associated with implementing multiple prescriptions for risk mitigation in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, USA.
Koa trees with a blanket of grass underneath.
Planting old pastures with the native tree Acacia koa is a common forest restoration strategy in Hawaii, with goals including natural secondary succession to more diverse forest. Often, however, alien grasses remain dominant in the understory, without native species naturally recruiting into restoration areas. We explored the causes.
Field crews walking through 15-month-old regenerating native Acacia koa in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
Similar to the continental western United States, invasive, alien grasses in the Hawaiian Islands promote fire and may lead to alteration of forested ecosystems. We looked at how pre-fire grass cover, pre-fire tree density, and burn severity affected post-fire Acacia koa regeneration across different habitat types.
Thumbnail image of the Storymap on Partnership between LANDFIRE and FIA
Wildland fire management needs data that is both nationally consistent and locally relevant. Fifteen years ago, the LANDFIRE program was started to address these critical needs with an all-lands approach. Since the beginning, LANDFIRE has relied on Forest Inventory and Analysis data to provide comprehensive, and reliable field-based reference data and analysis support. Together, these programs now support more partners than ever.
A stand of fire-killed trees that before the 2014 King fire was a productive nest stand for spotted owls.
Large, severe fires (or “megafires”) are becoming more common in many forest systems, but relatively little is known about the longer-term effects of megafires on ecosystems and the wildlife that inhabit them. This work examines the persistent effects of a 2014 megafire on a well-studied population of California spotted owls, showing an enduring loss of individuals and nesting structures.

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