The Western Mountain Initiative (WMI)

Science Center Objects

Western Mountain Initiative (WMI) is a long-term collaboration between FORT, WERC, NOROCK, USFS, NPS, LANL, and universities worldwide to address changes in montane forests and watersheds due to climate change. Current emphases include altered forest disturbance regimes (fire, die-off, insect outbreaks) and hydrology; interactions between plants, water, snow, nutrient cycles, and climate; and cascading ecosystem effects of nitrogen deposition. Currently there are two FORT based WMI projects: Western Mountain Initiative: Central Rocky Mountains, Western Mountain Initiative: Southern Rocky Mountains. We continue to build on decades of field research and data syntheses at national parks and many other lands throughout the west. You can read more about each of these projects on the Science tab on this page. 

Western Mountain Initiative Home website

Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.
Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.Photo by: Melannie Hartman. Public domain.

Western Mountain Initiative: Central Rocky Mountains - Principal Investigator - Jill Baron

Mountain ecosystems of the western U.S. provide irreplaceable goods and services, such as water, wood, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities, but their responses to global changes 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 global change.

The effects of global change and atmospheric deposition are now apparent in nearly all western mountain landscapes, including the Central Rockies of Colorado. As part of the long-term monitoring program in Loch Vale Watershed, Rocky Mountain National Park, we have been tracking and interpreting trends in meteorology, precipitation chemistry, hydrology, limnology, water quality and forest health since 1983. Monitoring is the foundation upon which our research questions are based, and allows us to address mechanisms by which biogeochemical and biological processes are influenced by nitrogen deposition, climate change, and their interactions. 

 

Rio Chama Valley from Mesa Alta, NM.
Rio Chama Valley from Mesa Alta, NM. Photo by: Craig Allen, USGS. Public domain.

Western Mountain Initiative: Southern Rocky Mountains - Principal Investigators - Craig Allen and Ellis Margolis

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.