The Western Mountain Initiative (WMI) explores the effects of climate and global 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 conditions 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 biogoechemistry. WMI addresses the extent to which climate drivers are mediated by regional- or watershed-scale controls on ecosystem processes, thus quantifying vulnerability in mountain ecosystems. Region-specific results and emergent West-wide patterns are shared with resource managers through workshops and toolkits on climate-change science and adaptation management. Thus, WMI seeks to understand climate-ecosystem interactions, forecast ecological change, and provide adaptation information for managers.
Why is this research important?
Mountain ecosystems of the western U.S. provide society with irreplaceable goods and services such as clean water, wood products, biodiversity conservation, and recreational opportunities. We are documenting rapid changes in western ecosystems. Managers and policymakers need both a robust understanding of the causes and consequences of these changes and an array of pragmatic adaptation options. WMI helps provide these.
Principal Investigators: Jill S. Baron, Craig D. Allen, Nathan L. Stephenson, Dan Fagre, David L. Peterson, Don McKenzie
Project Team: A. J. Das, C.L. Tague, J.A. Hicke, A. Fountain, D. S. Ojima