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Science Spotlights

White pine blister rust canker
Limber pine (Pinus flexilis) is being threatened by the lethal disease white pine blister rust, expanding bark beetle pressure, and climate change in mountain environments. Scientists have identified an exciting disease-free trait in limber pine consistent with inheritance by a single dominate gene.
Wildfire in a wildland-urban interface (photo by Kari Greer)
Motivated by the combination of high wildfire risk and the concentration of substantial social and economic values within the study area, a collaboration involving the Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Bureau of Land Management, the University of Colorado, and a local wildfire council conducted research on wildfire risk faced by wildland-urban interface homeowners in western Colorado. The unique research effort pairs parcel level wildfire...
Boise River
New understanding has revealed that declines in snowpacks are not just related to warming temperatures but also to overall decreases in precipitation and streamflow in northwestern U.S. mountains, which result from slowing winter westerly windspeeds over the region. Warming related to an increased atmospheric CO2 may have contributed to the changed atmospheric pressure patterns that result in reduced wind speeds.
Sage grouse in a field
Recent connectivity assessments for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the Columbia Basin, Washington, provide an opportunity to (1) evaluate approaches for parameterizing resistance models based on sage grouse specifically or the concept of landscape integrity, (2) derive parameters from expert or empirical data, and (3) explore the influence of scale on model accuracy. Sage grouse in this region occupy a small fraction of...
We quantified and ranked invasiveness and impact for 48 exotic plant species based on surveys over 20,000 km2 of grasslands in western Montana. These data provide a valuable tool for managers to determine the relative impacts of invaders for prioritizing exotic plants for control in the bluebunch wheatgrass habitat type.
Water that evaporates is unavailable for use until it falls again elsewhere as precipitation. What remains is available for use by humans and other species, and in a broad sense is our fresh water supply (until it reaches the sea). RMRS researchers estimated water supply across the contiguous 48 states for the period 1981-2010. Political, administrative, and land cover boundaries were mapped over the gridded water supply estimates to indicate...
Climate change is a pressing environmental issue that requires measuring the exchange of greenhouse gases between terrestrial systems and the atmosphere. Reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration through enhanced terrestrial carbon storage may help slow or reverse the rate of global climate change.
Ferruginous hawk instrumented with a solar GPS transmitter.
Over the past decade and a half, raptors nesting in prairie ecosystems have been subject to sharp increases in nearby energy development activity. This research documents how nesting ferruginous hawks forage in oil and gas energy fields based on GPS telemetry. The purpose is to help managers and companies reflect conservation needs of this species in the management and arrangement of energy-development infrastructure.   
Fishers are a rare and secretive carnivore in the Rocky Mountains and along the West Coast.  They are currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  They are also being considered as a Species of Conservation Concern on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.
Invasive plant impacts on native plants can ripple through native food webs from plants to insects all the way to birds. We observed that the invasion of spotted knapweed into grasslands of western Montana affects not only breeding success of songbirds but also the way song is passed between generations.