We focus on priority ecosystems (such as the Arctic, coastal zones, wetlands, forests, deserts) and their response to both devastating natural events (including wildfires) and changing land management practices (such as fire control). Our scientists provide the information, data, and tools that resource managers need to manage priority ecosystems and their resources efficiently.
Boreal Aquatic Ecosystem Vulnerability to Fire and Climate Change, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
Research will combine detailed field experiments and measurements with an integrated suite of spatially and temporally explicit climate, terrestrial, and aquatic habitat models to better understand the effects of fire and climate change on aquatic communities in boreal ecosystems of interior Alaska.
Partners: Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Fire Science Consortium, U.S. Department of Defense, USFWS, Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Issue: Fire size, frequency, and severity are increasing in Alaska. Interactions among fire, climate, permafrost, vegetation, and hydrologic and watershed processes are poorly understood, yet critical for conservation and management of boreal aquatic habitats in a changing environment. Hibernating little brown bat.
Societal Impact: It costs an average of $5 billion per year to respond to wildfires nationwide, and the net economic impact is about $72 billion per year.
Informing Decisions/Benefits to States: Results could support a science decision making approach to refine management objectives, decision options, and management scenarios, to conduct cost benefit analyses, and to create a web-based decision-support tool for State agencies.
Response by Female Lesser Prairie-Chickens to Patch-Burn Grazing
The lesser prairie‐chicken is a declining species of prairie‐grouse that requires a diversity of grassland plant species varying in composition and structure. Natural fire, which historically maintained these grasslands, has been removed from much of its range. Patch‐burn grazing is a management strategy that reestablishes the fire‐grazing interaction to a grassland system, increasing heterogeneity in vegetation structure and composition. Understanding the response of lesser prairie-chickens to a variety of grazing and prescribed fire practices, which are tools for managing landscapes to support the species, is important for conservation planning.
Partners: Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Natural Resources Conservation Service Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Kansas State University.
Issue: The lesser prairie-chicken has been considered for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Lesser prairie-chickens are sensitive to disturbances on the landscape, especially grazing and fire. The occurrence of widespread, intensive wildfires is expanding the range of the lesser prairie-chicken.
Societal Impact: Landowners may use grazing and prescribed fire practices for management of lesser prairie chicken populations.
Informing Decisions/Benefits to States: Development of conservation strategies by State and Federal agencies for lesser prairie-chickens would benefit from inclusion of grazing and prescribed fire practices that mimic ecological drivers of grassland systems.
Ground Squirrels and Forest Restoration in Idaho, Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Idaho
Northern Idaho ground squirrels are listed as threatened and have a very small range in central Idaho. Ground squirrels hibernate for approximately 8 months per year. Research suggests that recovery efforts for northern Idaho ground squirrels should include protection and management for the full range of habitat conditions throughout summer and winter. More broadly, researchers emphasize the need to identify and protect habitat during all seasons because habitat requirements can differ substantially during different periods in an animal’s annual cycle and effective conservation will require management of year-round habitat needs.
Partners: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Idaho.
Issue: Fire suppression over the past century has caused widespread changes to the distribution and composition of coniferous (trees that bear their seeds in cones) forests in the western United States. Societal Impact: Forest management actions that reduce fire risk benefit society by protecting life and property, as well as ensuring that those actions are compatible with endangered species recovery efforts.
Informing Decisions/Benefits to States: The results will help land management agencies implement forest management practices that benefit an ESA-listed species such as the threatened northern Idaho ground squirrel. Recovery and delisting will help reduce ESA-imposed restrictions on activities within the species range, which will assist agencies in accomplishing their conservation objectives.