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    Author(s): Dan Ferber
    Date: 2012
    Source: February 2012. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 9 p.
    Publication Series: Science Bulletins and Newsletters
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (2.0 MB)


    For centuries, the resilience of western ecosystems kept pace with changes in climate, native species and peoples, and other natural stressors. Droughts, winds, floods, insect outbreaks, bison, and wild fires periodically disrupted the ecosystem dynamics of America's grasslands, shrublands and deserts, and the changes would sometimes last a few years. Native plants and animals were adapted to ecological disturbances, though, and before long they bounced back or shifted to a new state of balance. Some ecosystems and species depended on disturbances such as fire and flooding for renewal. With the arrival of European settlers, however, the dynamics began to change. In today's western rangelands, bison have been replaced by cattle, river water is regulated, non-native plants are invading every state, and cities and transportation networks dot the land. Continuing new knowledge is needed to sustain healthy ecosystems as they undergo rapid changes to meet human needs. How much stress can arid lands tolerate? What knowledge is needed to maintain healthy, biologically diverse ecosystems as urban environments grow larger, as fires burn bigger and hotter, or when wind farms govern the landscape? What science is most helpful to meet the challenges of changing land use and climate? Scientists at USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station's Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystem Research Program are investigating both natural and human-made stressors, and their results could help conserve native species and essential Western ecosystems.

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    Ferber, Dan, ed. 2012. GSD Update: The West in transition: Costs and unexpected benefits of disrupting ecosystems. February 2012. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 9 p.


    disrupting ecosystems, post-fire recovery, rangelands, sage-grouse conservation, urban open space

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