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Science Spotlights

View of active fire burning surface fuels in a prescribed burn block at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on February 6, 2011. The overstory is dominated by fire-dependent longleaf pine (photo credit: Andrew T. Hudak).
Build-up of woody and herbaceous fuels increases the risk of hazardous wildfires. Using airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scientists are examining fuel build up between wildfires to examine the relationship between surface fuels and fire energy. By integrating the repeated measures of heat flux imaged over the whole duration of a fire, the total energy released was mapped across an entire burn area. Airborne remote sensing provides...
Fig. 4. Imputations of trees per hectare (a), basal area (b) and dominant tree species (c) from airborne lidar across Eglin AFB, and Plot ID (d) imputed as an ancillary variable (i.e., having no weight in the model). This model used for mapping was based
Forest, fuel, and fire management strategies and decisions applied at the scale of forest stands influence not just the tree overstory but also understory plant composition and structure. Understory plants and forest floor materials constitute the surface fuels burned in prescribed fires. Researchers associated LiDAR data from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida with field plot data and fire management records.
The mountain pine beetle has its very own microbiome, or community of organism that share its space. Scientists studied the fungal and mite aspects of the mountain pine beetle microbiome as the beetles attacked host trees ranging in elevations of 1800 to 3000 meters in the Roosevelt Forest in Colorado. Gaining a better understanding of the mountain pine beetle microbiome at different beetle population levels will help scientists understand the...
Research Forester Emily Heyerdahl prepares samples for archiving (photo by Roger Pilkington).
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is preparing more than 16,000 tree-ring specimens for permanent archiving. Each specimen is a unique record of the environmental conditions from which it came. This tree-ring specimen collection will be permanently archived at the only federally recognized tree-ring repository in the U.S., where its importance will grow as it is used in ways we cannot currently imagine.
Pinyon jays perched atop berry-laden juniper tree.
Over the past century, many pinyon-juniper woodlands in the Great Basin have expanded their range and increased their stand densities. These changes in structure and extent have effects on both the species that use the woodlands and to species whose habitat is being encroached by them. We observed and described where pinyon jays prefer to cache seeds in order to gain an understanding on how and where expansion and infill is likely to occur and...
Cross section of a dead Utah juniper.
Annual precision of tree-ring data is often sought for detailed analyses. Important, widespread species such as ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir are often used for tree-ring science. However, there are other low elevation species, oftentimes termed woodland trees that could also be useful, including Utah juniper.
Trends in forest attributes are typically assessed using long-term forest inventories, but trends can only be assessed when inventory methods are compatible over time. This study demonstrated an appropriate method of comparing historical to current inventory data, showing that comparisons not accounting for changing inventory methods can produce misleading results about forest trends in western states.
Lubrecht Experimental Forest was a study site for this project.
Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Research Station investigated a number of fuel characteristics across major surface and canopy fuel components that comprise northern Rocky Mountain forest and range fuelbeds. They found that most fuel components have high variability that increases with fuel particle size.
Understanding trends in forest disturbance caused by fire, harvest, stress, weather, and conversion is important for many forest management decisions as well as scientific investigations. After a decade of collaborative work between the Forest Service, NASA, University of Maryland and other partners, the North American Forest Dynamics (NAFD) project has processed historic Landsat data. This effort provides a comprehensive annual, wall-to-wall...
China has significant and growing forest resources, but those resources have been a mystery to most of the world until recently. RMRS work with the Chinese National Forest Inventory has helped to document methods and conclusions of China’s efforts to understand its own forests.

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