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Mountain Pine Beetle Impacts on Carbon Cycling in Rocky Mountain Forests

Lodgepole pine forest with heavy mountain pine beetle mortality in Grand County, Colorado.
Lodgepole pine forest with heavy mountain pine beetle mortality in
Grand County, Colorado.
In the Southern Rocky Mountains, an epidemic outbreak of mountain pine beetle has caused unprecedented levels of tree mortality. To better understand the long-term impacts of insect outbreaks on vegetation and biogeochemical cycling, we have collected forest vegetation data at 119 plots in lodgepole pine forests in eastern Grand County, CO and X plots in ponderosa pine forests along the Front Range. With the field data, we are simulating future vegetation conditions, biomass, and carbon stocks under a range of scenarios using the Forest Vegetation Simulator model. Airborne LiDAR data were also collected over our study area during the summer of 2010. We are analyzing those data to quantify forest vegetation structure (e.g. biomass) and provide the necessary data to simulate vegetation change and biogeochemical cycling over the entire Grand County study area.

Principal Investigator: Todd Hawbaker, tjhawbaker@usgs.gov, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, Denver, CO

Project Team: Megan Caldwell, Jenny Briggs, and Susan Stitt, USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, Denver, CO.

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