You are here

Science Spotlights

A sporulating white pine blister rust canker from a recent infection on a branch of a susceptible limber pine (photo by Anna W. Schoettle).
Active management is needed to sustain healthy limber pine (Pinus flexilis) forests in the southern Rocky Mountains as they are threatened by the interaction of the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic, climate change, and the spread of the non-native pathogen that causes white pine blister rust disease (Cronartium ribicola). Movement of seedlings with disease resistance from northern to southern Colorado may result in...
Lodgepole forest cut Tenderfoot Creed Experimental Forest
Many lodgepole pine forests in Montana were historically a mix of ages and tree sizes as a result of mixed-severity fires. Now the forests have trees mostly the same size and crowns touch so that when fires burn, they burn as large and severe crown fires. This study looked twelve years after two patterns of thinning and burning, to see if the cutting patterns and regrowth could influence fire behavior. 
When trees are injured they develop physical and chemical boundaries around the injury wound to resist infection. Trees also grow new wood to close over the injured place. Injuries caused by fires result in fire scars and we use the patterns of scarring among many trees to understand when and how often fires burn.  This research helps to understand the biological process of fire scar formation and use it to improve fire history analysis.
Paul Patterson presenting during the R and Open Foris Calc Workshop in Lima, Peru
Carbon sequestration is an important element in the discussion towards limiting the impacts of climate change. There are proposals to pay tropical countries to maintain their forests to maximize carbon sequestration. Vital to this proposal is the existence of a National Forest Inventory with statistically valid estimates of forest attributes.
Alex Gaffke (front) and Diane Johnson (back) measuring Dalmatian toadflax density and heights on a biocontrol site transect, July 2013.
The impacts of typical weed treatments on both the target weed(s) and non-target plant species that occur in large scale, chronic weed infestations are seldom quantitatively assessed or compared. Further, advantages or disadvantages of making high density ‘inundative’ biocontrol releases to counteract high levels of overwintering mortality affecting agent establishment and increase are seldom documented. Impacts of inundative biocontrol on...
There is new methodology for fitting ecologically feasible “shapes” to time series of Landsat imagery for modeling, mapping, and monitoring annual forest disturbance dynamics. Through a case study of fire, harvest and bark beetle outbreak, scientists illustrate how resultant fitted values and parameters can be fed into empirical models to map disturbance causal agent and tree canopy cover changes coincident with disturbance events through time.
Photo: LEWIS WOOD BERRIESem.jpg; caption – Lewis’s Woodpecker most frequently nests in relatively open, recently burned forests with large diameter snags.
Increases in forest fires are expected with future changes in climate, allowing more opportunities for post-fire salvage logging. Forest managers are challenged with implementing post-fire management policies while concurrently meeting the requirements of existing laws and planning documents to maintain habitat for wildlife species associated with snags. Design criteria for post-fire salvage logging is needed to concurrently manage for economic...
BBN_emblem.jpg – Birds and Burns Network emblem
Researchers studied avian relationships with wildfire to evaluate forest fire and fuels management strategies. Specifically, they document regional differences associated with historical fire regime with implications for broadly implemented strategies aimed at reducing severe wildfire risk. The results suggest that avian-fire relationships differ regionally, and therefore the best management practices for conserving or restoring avian diversity...
Northern goshawk nestlings
The elusive northern goshawk, its forest habitats, and the habitats of its bird and mammal prey are significant conservation issues related to the management of forests throughout the hawk’s North American range.  The Rocky Mountain Research Station has been enumerating the population size and documenting the population ecology and demography of individual goshawks on Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau for 20 years with the objective of identifying the...
A new optimization technique will help conservation biologists choose the most cost-effective ways of connecting isolated populations of rare species. As the human population grows and expands its footprint, maintaining the connectivity of wildlife habitats is a challenge, but an RMRS-led team has developed tools for cost-effective solutions.