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Science Spotlights

A photograph of downed trees with mullein in the foreground, green coniferous trees behind the mullein, and mountains with snow in the background.
Model development combining multiple data sources to leverage data source strengths and for improved parameter precision has increased, but with limited discussion on precision gain versus effort. Some data sources take more effort than others, thus knowing how much improvement is gained with these monitoring metrics is important for allocating samples on the landscape. Our framework allows research and monitoring programs to evaluate optimal...
Photograph from on top of a hill looking down on a landscape of dead and dying trees. Green vegetation in the foreground, blue skies with big white clouds in the background.
To conserve and promote biological diversity, land managers must identify suitable habitat for species of conservation concern. Managers can then restrict potentially detrimental activities (e.g., salvage logging) to areas of lower habitat suitability, and target beneficial activities (e.g., restoration) where habitat suitability is higher. We developed FIRE-BIRD, an ArcGIS tool, to map habitat suitability for disturbance-associated woodpeckers...
Ponderosa pine regeneration is sensitive to moisture availability and have limited seed dispersal. Ponderosa forest recovery can be delayed following disturbance. Drier and hotter conditions may reduce ponderosa regeneration (Photo by R. Addington, TNC).
Understanding the structure of understory vegetation in forests is critical for estimating carbon stocks, fuel loading, and assessing wildlife habit. Using nationally collected inventory data shows promise in providing better estimates and assessments in these areas over large geographical regions.
Prescribed crown fire at Manning Creek, Fishlake National Forest. Photo credit: Roger Ottmar. Photo taken: June 2019
The broad consensus among fire and fuel scientists and managers is that we need to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations on many more acres to mitigate the risk and severity of wildfires. But mechanical fuel treatments are expensive! Prescribed fire is a more cost effective tool to reduce fuel loads and to restore and maintain fuel conditions to something closer to the historical norm.
The “lasso” is a statistical estimator the captures only the best, of many, remotely sensed variables to use in a model. This is one of seven statistical estimators covered in the new tutorial and R package.
Having precise estimates of our forest characteristics is important if we want to assess the status of our forests, detect change, or monitor trends. New statistical estimators enable us to improve precision by merging forest inventory data with data from a variety of remote sensing instruments, but often pose computational challenges. This new tutorial and R software package makes both old and new survey estimation tools easily accessible.
Engelmann spruce stand in a long-term seed production study on the Fraser Experimental Forest, Colorado.
In 1968, thirteen permanent research plots were established in Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir forests along an elevational gradient on the Fraser Experimental Forest. Seed traps were installed on these plots and have been sampled annually since 1968. In 2011, tree cores were sampled to examine the relationship between climate and seed production.
The riparian vegetation along the upper Gila River in southwestern New Mexico has high richness of woody plants and extremely high densities of nesting birds including the Federally endangered and threatened species
Rivers and streams of the American Southwest have been heavily altered by human activity, resulting in significant changes to disturbance regimes. Riparian vegetation in aridland floodplain systems is critically important as foraging, migrating, and breeding habitat to birds and other animal species. To conserve riparian ecosystems and organisms, understanding how plants and animals are affected by disturbance processes and multiple stressors is...
Northern goshawk research technician standing in an example of an idealized ponderosa pine forest on the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona.
Throughout the Rocky Mountains over the last century, large ponderosa pine trees provided lumber for growing cities and towns, along with fuel and timber for the mining and railroad industries. Most of these forests are now occupied by dense young and mid-aged forests highly susceptible to being killed by bark beetles and burned by wildfires. These conditions have been exacerbated by fire suppression and urban encroachment. As a result,...
Mycorrhizal fungi attach to the roots of plants and produce fruiting bodies called sporocarps, or mushrooms.  Pines such as these ponderosa pine seedlings rely on these ectomycorrhizal fungi to provide them extra water and nutrients.  Photo by Suzanne Owe
Soil fungi are important components of the soil microbial community that influence ecosystem resilience and stability after disturbances such as fire. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi increase water and nutrient uptake for their plant hosts in return for carbon. Saprotrophic fungi play an important role in nutrient cycling and are responsible for decomposing wood, plant litter, and soil organic matter. 
Hiking trails in the Arapaho-Roosevelt NF in northern Colorado and surrounded by bark beetle–caused tree mortality, Arapaho-Roosevelt NF.
This research presents synthesis of recent research on the effects of mountain pine beetle outbreaks in Colorado’s lodgepole pine forests. The work updates users, scientists, and the public on research finds on how mountain pine beetle has affected a suite of ecosystem services.