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Science Spotlights

Piles of seeds of different colors. Photo by N. Jacobi.
Native seed collection, production, and deployment are key steps in the supply chain for seed-based ecological restoration. Science-based best practices can help protect natural populations, conserve genetic diversity, and improve ecological outcomes.
Two researchers in safety gear crouch next to a frame used to take photoload sequences in the field.
The photoload technique provides a quick and accurate means of estimating wildland fuel loading. This report describes a protocol to create a set of photoload sequences in the field with minimal effort to increase the accuracy of the photoload technique in your local area.
Risk factors for tree mortality in boxes, with color of boxes indicating species. Grouped by site and stand, radial growth, carbon isotopes, tree size, resin ducts, BAI-Δ13C relationships, and climate relationships.
Determining why some trees die while others survive both drought and insect outbreaks is valuable for forecasting tree mortality events, which are expected to become more frequent with further climate change. We collected stand and tree-level data on the Sierra and Los Padres National Forests in Central and Southern California, where tree mortality from the combination of drought and bark beetles was widespread. 
A measuring tool encircles a young ponderosa pine
Ponderosa pine seedling establishment can be constrained following especially large, high-severity wildfires. Young seedlings face high mortality levels in the first few years and remain vulnerable to the next fire until they are taller. Understanding attributes associated with the growth of naturally regenerating seedlings that survive 10+ years postfire is useful in developing post-fire management strategies.
Infrared gas analyzers
In cold ecosystems, the annual carbon balance can be dominated by winter respiration. However, the eddy-covariance technique, a common methodology to measure net ecosystem exchange of carbon, can be inaccurate in cold climates due to the effect a warm sensor has on its gas measurement. Often, this error can make an otherwise dormant ecosystem appear as a carbon sink. Recently, RMRS researchers investigated and revised a common correction for...
A picture of a pine tree core with visible tree rings, and resin ducts visible as small dots within the rings.
Resin ducts are formed in the wood of pine trees and are a measure of the level of tree defense from insects and pathogens. We developed methods and software code to allow researchers to more easily quantify resin ducts.
An adult and juvenile spotted owl looking out from a hole in a dead, charred tree.
Whether severe fire is good or bad for spotted owls will influence how some forests are managed for fire risk. In reality, the effects of severe fire on spotted owls depends on the size of severely-burned patches, as well as their configuration and complexity. Owls actively use small patches of severely-burned forest, but they avoid larger patches and will abandon territories that are extensively affected by severe fire.
The cover of : Forest and Rangeland Soils of the United States Under Changing Conditions: A comprehensive science synthesis
A new, open-access book synthesizes current research and management information on forest and rangeland soils, offers ways to understand changing conditions and their impact on soils, and explores directions to positively affect future forest and rangeland soil health in the face of these impacts.  
A Mexican spotted owl sits on a branch.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are the most pressing threats to biodiversity, but understanding the potential for future habitat loss under climate change and its impacts across broad landscapes is difficult. Habitat selection models and area burned models that account for complex climate-fire relationships can help predict the impacts on species like the Mexican spotted owl.
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.