Western Mountain Initiative: Southern Rocky Mountains

Science Center Objects

Mountain ecosystems of the western U.S. provide irreplaceable goods and services such as water, wood, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities, but their potential responses to projected climatic patterns are poorly understood. The overarching objective of the Western Mountain Initiative (WMI) is to understand and predict the responses—emphasizing sensitivities, thresholds, resistance, and resilience—of western mountain ecosystems to climatic variability and change.

The WMI - Southern Rocky Mountains project, with diverse research partners, works on forests in the Southwest to: 1) elucidate centennial- to millennial-length shifts in past vegetation and fire regimes; 2) study responses of fire to short-term (annual to decadal) climatic variation; 3) determine drivers of tree mortality, including drought-stress thresholds for dieback; 4) assess patterns of post-disturbance ecosystem recovery; and 5) understand the joint effects of climatic variability, fire, and land use on watershed runoff and erosion processes. 

Golden aspen, Jemez Mountains, NM.

Golden aspen, Jemez Mountains, NM. Photo by Craig D. Allen, USGS. Public domain.

Two months after the Las Conchas fire, "moonscape" on Sanchez Mesa, NM, 2011.

Two months after the Las Conchas fire, "moonscape" on Sanchez Mesa, NM, 2011. Photo by Craig D. Allen. Public domain.