Funded Research Projects: FOREST ECOLOGY

Managing for resistance and resilience during a period of accelerating tree mortality in Rocky Mountain subalpine forests

Research Sponsored By: Society for Conservation Biology
Principal Investigator: Brian Harvey
Project Description
Climate change and altered disturbance regimes (e.g., drought, insect outbreaks, wildfires) are rapidly changing forest ecosystems in ways that will fundamentally challenge forest conservation and management over the next century. Subalpine forests in western North America are of high conservation value because they provide critical wildlife habitat, water resources, carbon storage, and recreational opportunities; however, the future of these forests is uncertain. Following widespread and severe bark beetle outbreaks in recent decades, subalpine forest trajectories will depend largely on survival of subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), the primary tree species not attacked in recent outbreaks. Yet, subalpine fir has experienced escalating mortality since the mid-1990s across the US Rocky Mountains. The causes of this mortality and consequences for subalpine forest persistence are largely unknown, but such information is critical for designing and successfully achieving conservation goals. In this study, we are combining multi-scale (individual tree to forest landscape) measurements and analyses in subalpine forests to [1] examine the spatio-temporal patterns of recent subalpine fir mortality and relationships with causal mechanisms, [2] evaluate effects of recent tree mortality on future forest trajectories, and [3] test the effect of management treatments on fostering ecological resistance and resilience.