Funded Research Projects: SUSTAINABLE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

The Western Mountain Initiative: Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Western mountain Ecosystems

Research Sponsored By: USDI US Geological Survey
Principal Investigator: Gregory Ettl
Project Description
Climate warming is affecting Western mountain ecosystems, directly through changes in water dynamics and indirectly through altered disturbance regimes. The Western Mountain Initiative team explores the effects of climate change on ecological disturbance, responses of forest vegetation, mountain hydrology, and the coupled hydro-ecological responses that determine vulnerability of Western mountain ecosystems to change. Extensive data sets, empirical studies, surveys, and monitoring programs are linked via models to hindcast and forecast the effects of changing climate on forest dynamics, distribution, and productivity; fire occurrence and insect outbreaks; recovery of vegetation after disturbance; hydrologic changes and glacier dynamics: and the consequences of an altered water cycle for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and chemistry. We will address the extent to which climate drivers are mediated by regional- or watershed-scale controls on ecosystem processes, thus quantifying vulnerability to climate change in mountain ecosystems. Region-specific results and emergent West-wide patterns will be shared with resource managers through workshops and a comprehensive web-based toolkit on climate-change science and adaptation management.