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Science Spotlights

A map showing trends in the area burned across northern Eurasia. Kazakhstan shows a concentrated decline in area burned.
Grassland fires dominated the declining trend of burned areas in northern Eurasia, accounting for 93 % of the decline of the total area burned. Grassland fires in Kazakhstan contributed 47 % of the total area burned and 84% of the decline. Wetter climate and increased grazing are the principle driving forces for the decline. 
Map showing three hotspots
Population growth rates in Sub-Saharan East Africa are among the highest in the world, which is increasing pressure for land cover conversion. We investigated land cover trends in collaboration with experts from seven East African countries and through a series of data collection and technology transfer workshops. Our results show that between 1988 and 2017 the area of cropland and settlements grew by 35% and 44%, respectively, displacing over...
Colorful map of AZ and NM
RMRS scientist Samuel Cushman has led the development and application of approaches to optimize multi-scale wildlife habitat relationships. We applied these methods to several American marten datasets and found very strong scale dependence of habitat relationships. We further explored how these methods improve understanding of brown bear habitat selection in Spain and understand niche partitioning of two sympatric marten species.
A map of the Great Plains grasslands of central North America (outlined) and wind speed, precipitation, precipitation coefficient of variation, and July vapor pressure. The Great Plains overlaps most clearly with wind speed.
Which factors differentiate central North American grasslands from eastern forests and other surrounding ecosystems has remained a century-long question. To determine which variables delineate the Great Plains grasslands, this research modeled grasslands using climate variables related to precipitation, evapotranspiration, vapor pressure, and wind speed.
A hillside with open Douglas-fir forest and a grassy understory.
We documented Douglas-fir open woodlands in the Umatilla National Forest in historical surveys conducted in the late 19th century. Douglas-fir open woodland is an unusual ecosystem type that has not been reconstructed in previous large-scale studies.
The Wildfire Risk to Communities logo
The Wildfire Risk to Communities website provides a nationwide view of wildfire risk potential, allowing users to see how individual states, counties, or communities compare to others across the country. These maps are powered by datasets developed by RMRS. 
Drought-induced pinyon pine mortality at lower treeline in Rock Creek, CA.
Many forests in dry mountain regions have a lower elevational treeline that constitutes the dry edge of the forest belt.  Lower treelines currently at their climate limit are expected to be more sensitive to changing climate. Lower treelines constrained by non-climatic factors are less likely to respond directly to climate change but may be sensitive to other global change agents. Understanding the controls on the position of lower treeline can...
A map showing tree mortality percentage from low (blue) to high (red).
Forest insects kill and defoliate trees across millions of acres each year. RMRS scientists have developed a new method to map insect-caused mortality with satellite imagery, which is supporting 2020 monitoring efforts.
A map of the United States showing forest loss event types - green (most of the northeast and west) shows stable forest, purple (most of the southeast) shows removal, and other colors indicate fire, stress, conversion, wind, and other.
A collaborative project between USFS FIA, NASA, and several universities has developed a new, national map attributing the cause and timing of forest canopy cover losses occurring between 1986 and 2010 across the conterminous United States. The models separated areas of stable forest from areas experiencing persisting forest cover loss (e.g. conversion of forest to other land uses), temporary forest cover loss due to abrupt changes (fire,...
A grassland stretches out to a blue horizon.
The Great Plains is the grasslands of the central United States, but precise delineation of this region has evaded agreement due to the transition between Great Plains grasslands and forests of the eastern United States. After comparing Great Plains delineations in readily available GIS (geographic information system) layers, Rocky Mountain Research Station scientist Brice Hanberry established a northeastern boundary using evidence from...