Seth Munson


Seth Munson is an ecologist with the Southwest Biological Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. His research focuses on plant-soil interactions in dryland ecosystems and how these interactions are affected by climate and land use changes. Much of his research aims to understand the dynamics of dryland ecosystems at long temporal and broad spatial scales, and employs a multidisciplinary approach. His work seeks to improve the management of arid and semi-arid lands, including determining effective ecological restoration strategies, and is done in close collaboration with several land management agencies.

Google Scholar Profile

ResearchGate Profile


Ph.D. Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, May 2009

B.A. Biology, Earlham College, Richmond, IN, May 2001

Research Interests:    

Plant Ecology, Ecosystem Ecology, Dryland Ecology, Restoration Ecology, Soil Erosion

Current Positions:

Research Ecologist, US Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center, Flagstaff, AZ

Adjunct Faculty, Northern Arizona University, Department of Biological Sciences, Flagstaff, AZ

Adjunct Faculty, Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences, Phoenix, AZ

Current Research Projects:

Restoration Assessment & Monitoring Program for the Southwest (RAMPS)

RestoreNet: A Distributed Field Trial Network for Dryland Restoration

Plant Responses to Drought and Climate Change in the Southwestern United States

Restoration and Ecosystem Recovery Dynamics in Arid and Semiarid Landscapes

Aeolian Dust in Dryland Landscapes of the Western United States

Past Positions:  

Jan 2011 - Dec 2013; Research Ecologist (Mendenhall Fellow), US Geological Survey, Geology and Environmental Change Science Center, Denver, CO

Dec 2008 - Jan 2011; Ecologist, US Geological Survey, Canyonlands Research Station, Moab, Utah 

May 2004 - Nov 2008; Research Assistant, Colorado State University, Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Fort Collins, CO

Sep 2002 – May 2004;  Research Associate, University of New Mexico, Biology Department, Albuquerque, NM


Thoma, D.P., M.T. Tercek, E.W. Schweiger, S.M. Munson, J.E. Gross, S.T. Olliff. 2020. Water balance as an indicator of natural resource condition: Case studies from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Global Ecology and Conservation 24: e01300. [Link]

Munson, S.M., J.B. Bradford, and K.R. Hultine. 2020. An integrative ecological drought framework to span plant stress to ecosystem transformation. Ecosystems, DOI: 10.1007/s10021-020-00555-y. [Link]

Laushman, K.M., S.M. Munson, M.L. Villarreal. 2020. Wildfire risk and hazardous fuel reduction treatments along the US-Mexico border: A review of the science (1986-2019). Air, Soil and Water Research [Special Issue] 13: 1-7. [Link]

Havrilla, C.A., S.M. Munson, M.L. McCormick, K.M. Laushman, K.R. Balazs, and B.J. Butterfield. 2020. RestoreNet: An emerging restoration network reveals controls on seeding success across dryland ecosystems. Journal of Applied Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13715. [Link]

Munson, S.M., E.O. Yackulic, L.S. Bair, S.M. Copeland, and K.L. Gunnell. 2020. The biggest bang for the buck: cost‐effective vegetation treatment outcomes across drylands of the western United States. Ecological Applications 30: e02151. [Link]                              ~Featured in Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America:

Xian, G.Z., T. Loveland, S.M. Munson, J.E. Vogelmann, X. Zeng, and C.J. Homer. 2020. Climate sensitivity to decadal land cover and land use change across the conterminous United States. Global and Planetary Change 192: 103262. [Link]

Hao, Y., W. Liu, X. Xu, S.M. Munson, K. Kang, X. Cui, N. He, and Y. Wang. 2020. Climate-induced abrupt shifts in structural states trigger delayed transitions in functional states. Ecological Indicators 115: 106468. [Link]

Reynolds, R.L., H.L. Goldstein, B.M. Moskowitz, R.F. Kokaly, S.M. Munson, P. Solheid, G.N. Breit, C.R. Lawrence, and J. Derry. 2020. Dust deposited on snow cover in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado, 2011‐2016: Compositional variability bearing on snow‐melt effects: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 125: e2019JD032210. [Link]

Balazs, K.R., A.T. Kramer, S.M. Munson, N. Talkington, S. Still, and B.J. Butterfield. 2020. The right trait in the right place at the right time: Matching traits to environment improves restoration outcomes: Ecological Applications 30: e02110. [Link]

Wang, G., S.M. Munson, K. Yu, N. Chen, and Q. Gou. 2020. Ecological effects of establishing a 40-year oasis protection system in a northwestern China desert. Catena 187: 104374. [Link]

Hartsell, J.A., S.M. Copeland, S.M. Munson, B.J. Butterfield, and J.B. Bradford. 2020. Gaps and hotspots in the state of knowledge of pinyon-juniper communities. Forest Ecology and Management 455: 117628. [Link]

Bradford, J.B., M.C. Duniway, and S.M. Munson. 2019. Assessing rangeland health under climate variability and change. Pages 310 - 322 in D.J. Gibson and J.A. Newman, editors. Grasslands and Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. [Link]

Bishop, T.B.B., S. Munson, R.A. Gill, J. Belnap, S.L. Petersen, and S.B. St. Clair. 2019. Spatiotemporal patterns of cheatgrass invasion in Colorado Plateau National Parks: Landscape Ecology 34: 925 - 941. [Link]

Copeland, S.M., S.M. Munson, J.B. Bradford, B.J. Butterfield, and K.L. Gunnell. 2019. Long‐term plant community trajectories suggest divergent responses of native and non‐native perennials and annuals to vegetation removal and seeding treatments. Restoration Ecology 27: 821 – 831. [Link]

Elkind, K., T.T. Sankey, S.M. Munson, and C.E. Aslan. 2019. Invasive buffelgrass detection using high‐resolution satellite and UAV imagery on Google Earth Engine. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation 5: 318 – 331. [Link]

Copeland, S.M., S.M. Munson, J.B. Bradford, and B.J. Butterfield. 2019. Influence of climate, post-treatment weather extremes, and soil factors on vegetation recovery after restoration treatments in the southwestern US. Applied Vegetation Science 22: 85 - 95. [Link]

Munson, S.M., E.L. Bunting, J.B. Bradford, B.J. Butterfield, and J.R. Gremer. 2019. Plant production responses to precipitation differ along an elevation gradient and are enhanced under extremes. Ecosystems 22: 699 – 708. [Link]

Thoma, D.P., S.M. Munson, and D.L. Witwicki. 2018. Landscape pivot points and responses to water balance in national parks of the southwest U.S. Journal of Applied Ecology 56: 157 - 167. [Link]

Gremer, J.R., C. Andrews, J.R. Norris, L.P. Thomas, S.M. Munson, M.C. Duniway, and J.B. Bradford. 2018. Increasing temperature seasonality may overwhem shifts in soil moisture to favor shrub over grass dominance in Colorado Plateau drylands. Oecologia 188: 1195 – 1207. [Link]

Winkler, D.E., ..., S.M. Munson [15th author], et al. 2018. Beyond traditional ecological restoration on the Colorado Plateau. Restoration Ecology 26: 1055 – 1060. [Link]

Bradford, J.B., B.L. Betancourt, B.J. Butterfield, S.M. Munson, and T.E. Wood. 2018. Anticipatory natural resource science and management for a changing future. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16: 295 – 303. [Link]

Munson, S.M., S.C. Reed, J. Peñuelas, N.G. McDowell, and O.E. Sala. 2018. Ecosystem thresholds, tipping points, and critical transitions. New Phytologist 218: 1315 – 1317. [Link]

Solazzo, D., J.B. Sankey, T.T. Sankey, and S.M. Munson. 2018. Mapping and measuring aeolian sand dunes with phogrammetry and LiDAR from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and mulitspectral satellite imagery on the Paria Plateau, AZ, USA. Geomorpholody 319: 174 – 185. [Link]

S.D. Wilson, ..., S.M. Munson [9th author], et al. 2018. Functional group, biomass, and climate change effects on ecological drought in semiarid grasslands. Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences 123: 1072 – 1085. [Link]

Copeland, S.M., S.M. Munson, D.S. Pilliod, J.L. Welty, J.B. Bradford, and B.J. Butterfield. 2018. Long-term trends in restoration and associated land treatments in the southwestern United States. Restoration Ecology 26: 311 – 322. [Link]

Schlaepfer, D.R., J.B. Bradford, W.K. Lauenroth, S.M. Munson, B. Tietjen, S.A. Hall, S.D. Wilson, M.C. Duniway, G. Jia, D.A. Pyke, A. Lkhagva, and K. Jamiyansharav. 2017. Climate change reduces extent of temperate drylands and intensifies drought in deep soils. Nature Communications 8: 14196. [Link]

Bradford, J.B., D.R. Schlaepfer, W.K. Lauenroth, C.B. Yackulic, M. Duniway, S. Hall, G. Jia, K. Jamiyansharav, S.M Munson, S.D. Wilson, and B. Tietjen. 2017. Future soil moisture and temperature extremes imply expanding suitability for rainfed agriculture in temperate drylands. Scientific Reports 7: 12923. [Link]

Tietjen, B., D.R. Schlaepfer, J.B. Bradford, W.K. Lauenroth, S.A. Hall, M.C. Duniway, T. Hochstrasser, G. Jia, S.M. Munson, D.A. Pyke, and S.D. Wilson. 2017. Climate change-induced vegetation shifts lead to more ecological droughts despite projected rainfall increases in many global temperate drylands. Global Change Biology 23: 2743 – 2754. [Link]

Bunting, E.L, S.M. Munson, and M.L. Villarreal. 2017. Climate legacy and lag effects on dryland plant communities in the southwestern U.S. Ecological Indicators 74: 216 – 229. [Link]

Munson, S.M. and A.L. Long. 2017. Climate drives shifts in grass reproductive phenology across the western USA. New Phytologist 213: 1945 – 1955. [Link]

Butterfield, B.J., J.B. Bradford, S.M. Munson, and J.R. Gremer. 2017. Aridity increases below-ground niche breadth in grass communities. Plant Ecology 218: 385 – 394. [Link]

Butterfield, B.J., S.M. Copeland, S.M. Munson, C.M. Roybal, and T.E. Wood. 2017. Prestoration: Using species in restoration that will persist now and into the future. Restoration Ecology 25: S155 – S163. [Link]

Witwicki, D.L., S.M. Munson, and D.P. Thoma. 2016. Effects of climate and water balance across grasslands of varying C3 and C4 grass cover. Ecosphere 7: e01577. [Link]

Munson, S.M., T.T. Sankey, G. Xian, M.L. Villarreal, and C.G. Homer. 2016. Decadal shifts in grass and woody plant cover are driven by prolonged drying and modified by topo-edaphic properties. Ecological Applications 26: 2480 – 2494. [Link]

Reynolds, R.L., S.M. Munson, D.P. Fernandez, H.L. Goldstein, and J.C. Neff. 2016. Concentrations of mineral aerosol from desert to plains across the central Rocky Mountains, western United States. Aeolian Research 23: 21 – 35. [Link]

Butterfield, B.J. and S.M. Munson. 2016. Temperature is better than precipitation as a predictor of plant community assembly across a dryland region. Journal of Vegetation Science 27: 938 – 947. [Link]

Munson, S.M., A. L. Long, C.S.A. Wallace, and R.H. Webb. 2016. Cumulative drought and land-use impacts to perennial vegetation across a North American dryland region. Applied Vegetation Science 19: 430 – 441. [Download File]

Thoma, D.P., S.M. Munson, K.M. Irvine, D.L. Witwicki, and E.L. Bunting. 2016. Semi-arid vegetation response to antecedent climate and water balance windows. Applied Vegetation Science 19: 413 – 429. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., M.C. Duniway, and J.K. Johanson. 2016. Rangeland monitoring reveals long-term plant responses to precipitation and grazing at the landscape-scale. Rangeland Ecology and Management 69: 76 – 83. [Download File]

Gremer, J.R., J.B. Bradford, S.M. Munson, and M.C. Duniway. 2015. Desert grassland responses to climate and soil moisture suggest divergent vulnerabilities across the southwestern U.S. Global Change Biology 21: 4049 – 4062. [Download File]

Sankey, J.B., S.M. Munson, R.H. Webb, C.S.A. Wallace, and C.M. Duran. 2015. Remote sensing of Sonoran desert vegetation structure and phenology with ground-based LiDAR. Remote Sensing 7: 342 – 359. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., A.L. Long, C. Decker, K.A. Johnson, K. Walsh, and M.E. Miller. 2015. Repeated landscape-scale treatments following fire to suppress a non-native annual grass and promote recovery of native perennial vegetation. Biological Invasions 17: 1915 – 1926. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., R.H. Webb, D.C. Housman, K.E. Veblen, K.E. Nussear, E.A. Beever, K.B. Hartney, M.N. Miriti, S.L. Phillips, R.E. Fulton, and N.G. Tallent. 2015. Long-term plant responses to climate are moderated by biophysical attributes in a North American desert. Journal of Ecology 103: 657 – 668. [Download File]

Munson, S.M. and A.A. Sher. 2015. Long-term shifts in the phenology of rare and endemic Rocky Mountain plants. American Journal of Botany 102: 1268 – 1276. [Download File]

Belnap, J., B.J. Walker, S.M. Munson, and R.A. Gill. 2014. Controls on sediment production in two U.S. deserts. Aeolian Research 14: 15 – 24. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., J. Belnap, R.H. Webb, J.A. Hubbard, M.H. Reiser, and K. Gallo. 2014. Climate change and plant community composition in national parks of the southwestern U.S.: forecasting regional, long-term effects to meet management needs: The George Wright Forum 31: 137 – 148. [Download File]

Munson, S.M. and W.K. Lauenroth. 2014. Controls of vegetation structure and net primary production in restored grasslands. Journal of Applied Ecology 51: 988 – 996. [Download File]

Sankey, J.S., D.D. Breshears, D.J. Law, S.M. Munson, and R.H. Webb. 2013. Employing lidar to detail vegetation canopy architecture for prediction of aeolian flux. Geophysical Research Letters 40: 1724 – 1728 [Download File]

Munson, S.M., E.H. Muldavin, J. Belnap, D.P.C. Peters, J.P. Anderson, M.H. Reiser, K. Gallo, A. Melgoza, J.E. Herrick, T.A. Christiansen. 2013. Regional signatures of plant response to drought and elevated temperature across a desert ecosystem. Ecology 94: 2030 – 2041. [Download File]

Munson, S.M. 2013. Plant responses, climate pivot points, and tradeoffs in water-limited ecosystems. Ecosphere 4: 109. [Download File]

Neff, J.C., R.L. Reynolds, S.M. Munson, D. Fernandez, and J. Belnap. 2013. The role of dust storms in total atmospheric particle concentrations at two sites in the western U.S. Journal of Geophysical Research 118: 11201 – 11212. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., W.K. Lauenroth, and I.C. Burke. 2012. Soil carbon and nitrogen recovery on semiarid Conservation Reserve Program lands. Journal of Arid Environments 79: 25 – 31. [Link]

Munson, S.M. and W.K. Lauenroth. 2012. Plant community recovery following restoration in semiarid grasslands. Restoration Ecology 20: 656 – 663. [Link]

Munson, S.M., R.H. Webb, J. Belnap, J.A. Hubbard, D.E. Swann, and S. Rutman. 2012. Forecasting climate change impacts to plant community composition in the Sonoran Desert region. Global Change Biology 18: 1083 – 1095. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., J. Belnap, G.S. Okin. 2011. Responses of wind erosion to climate induced vegetation changes on the Colorado Plateau. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108: 3854 – 3859.[Download File]

Munson, S.M., J. Belnap, C.D. Schelz, M. Moran, and T.W. Carolin. 2011. On the brink of change: plant responses to climate on the Colorado Plateau. Ecosphere 2: Article 68. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., R.H. Webb, and J.A. Hubbard. 2011. A comparison of methods to assess long-term changes in Sonoran Desert vegetation. Journal of Arid Environments 75: 1228 – 1231. [Download File]

Belnap, J., S.M. Munson, and J.P. Field. 2011. Aeolian and fluvial processes in dryland regions: the need for integrated studies. Ecohydrology 4: 615 – 622. [Download File]

Munson, S.M., T.J. Benton, W.K. Lauenroth, and I.C. Burke. 2010. Soil carbon flux following pulse precipitation events in the shortgrass steppe. Ecological Research 25: 205 – 211. [Link]

Li, J., G.S. Okin, J.E. Herrick, J. Belnap, S.M. Munson, and M.E. Miller. 2010. A simple method to estimate threshold friction velocity of wind erosion in the field. Geophysical Research Letters 37: L10402. [Link]

Anderson, G., S. Rutman, and S.M. Munson. 2010. Plant population and habitat characteristics of the endemic Sonoran Desert cactus Peniocereus striatus in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona. Madroño 57: 220 – 228. [Link]

Munson, S.M. and W.K. Lauenroth. 2009. Plant population and community responses to removal of the dominant species in the shortgrass steppe. Journal of Vegetation Science 20: 224 – 232. [Link]

Bontti, E.E., J.P. DeCant, S.M. Munson, M.A. Gathany, A. Przeszlowska, M.L. Haddix, S. Owens, I.C. Burke, W.J. Parton, and M.E. Harmon. 2009. Litter decomposition in grasslands of Central North America (US Great Plains). Global Change Biology 15: 1356 – 1363. [Link]