Research and Publications

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Prioritizing restoration areas to conserve multiple sagebrush-associated wildlife species

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We identified restoration priority areas with greater precision than existing spatial prioritizations and incorporated range differences among species. We noted tradeoffs, including that restoring for habitat connectivity may require restoration actions in areas with lower probability of success. Future applications of Prioritizing Restoration of Sagebrush Ecosystems Tool will draw from emerging datasets, including spatially-varying economic costs of restoration, animal movement data, and additional species, to further improve our ability to target effective sagebrush restoration.

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Sage-grouse population dynamics are adversely affected by overabundant feral horses

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On average, for every 50% increase in horse abundance over maximum appropriate management levels, our model predicted an annual decline in sage-grouse abundance by 2.6%. Horse abundance at or below maximum appropriate management levels coincided with sage-grouse λ estimates that were consistent with trends at non-horse areas elsewhere in the study region.

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Dynamics of insect pollinator communities in sagebrush associated with weather and vegetation

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Pollinator familial richness, diversity, abundance, and timing of emergence were most strongly positively associated with spatiotemporal variation in minimum daily temperatures at the ground surface during the active season. Emergence timing was positively correlated with growing degree days and percent humidity, regardless of elevation. All pollinator groups varied in abundance throughout their active season, peaking in early July (bees), late July (flies), or early August (butterflies and moths). Our findings suggest that changes in nighttime temperatures, which have been steadily increasing over the last several decades as a result of climate change, may have strong effects on sagebrush steppe pollinator communities. Also, non-bee pollinators may provide particularly important pollination in this vast ecosystem during the warmest time of the year.

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Wildfire and climate change adaptation of western US forests: A case for intentional management

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Hagmann et al. (in press) review a century of observations and multi-scale, multi-proxy research evidence that details widespread changes in forested landscapes and wildfire regimes since the influx of European colonists. Over the preceding 10 millennia, large areas of wNA were already settled and proactively managed with intentional burning by Indigenous tribes. Prichard et al. (in press) then review the research on management practices historically applied by Indigenous tribes and currently applied by some managers to intentionally manage forests for resilient conditions. They address ten questions surrounding the application and relevance of these management practices. Here, we highlight the main findings of both papers and offer recommendations for management. We discuss progress paralysis that often occurs with strict adherence to the precautionary principle; offer insights for dealing with the common problem of irreducible uncertainty and suggestions for reframing management and policy direction; and identify key knowledge gaps and research needs.

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Beyond planning tools: Experiential learning in climate adaptation planning and practices

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Here, we describe a training approach that we developed to help managers effectively plan to execute intentional, climate-informed actions. This training approach was developed through the Climate Change Response Framework (CCRF) and uses active and focused work time and peer-to-peer interaction to overcome observed barriers to using adaptation planning tools. We evaluate the effectiveness of this approach by examining participant evaluations and outlining the progress of natural resources projects that have participated in our trainings. We outline a case study that describes how this training approach can lead to place and context-based climate-informed action. Finally, we describe best practices based on our experience for engaging natural resources professionals and helping them increase their comfort with climate-informed planning.

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Effects of post-fire management on vegetation and fuels following successive wildfires in mixed conifer forests

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Results of our study suggest that post-fire vegetation structure and woody fuels play an important role in subsequent fire severity patterns and ultimately influence the resilience of post-fire landscapes to future fire. In areas where high-severity reburn is undesirable, managers should consider treatments that reduce the density and continuity of vegetation, standing snags, and large woody surface fuels. In areas where proactive reforestation
is necessary, planting in areas that are in rough or mesic terrain may reduce the likelihood of high-severity reburn. The results of our study also suggest that active post-fire management may be necessary in areas that have burned at low to moderate severity in order to maintain or promote the restorative benefits of an initial fire or to restore the dominance of fire resilient tree species.

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Fireshed Registry: Fireshed and project area boundaries for the continental US

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The Fireshed Registry is a geospatial dashboard and decision tool built to organize information about wildfire transmission to communities and monitor progress towards risk reduction for communities from management investments. The concept behind the Fireshed Registry is to identify and map the source of risk rather than what is at risk across all lands in the continental United States. While the Fireshed Registry was organized around mapping the source of fire risk to communities, the framework does not preclude the assessment of other resource management priorities and trends such as water, fish and aquatic or wildlife habitat, or recreation. The Fireshed Registry is also a multi-scale decision tool for quantifying, prioritizing, and geospatially displaying wildfire transmission to buildings in adjacent or nearby communities.

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Contrasting the role of human- and lightning-caused wildfires on future fire regimes on a Central Oregon landscape

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No significant change was projected for the number of human-caused fire ignitions, but we projected a 14% reduction in lightning-caused ignitions under future conditions. Mean fire sizes were 31% and 22% larger under future conditions (2031–2060) for human and lightning-caused ignitions, respectively. All but one climate model projected increased frequency of record-breaking events relative to the contemporary period, with the largest future fires being about twice the size of those of the contemporary period. This work contributes to understanding the role of lightning- and human-caused fires on future fire regimes and can help inform successful adaptation strategies in this landscape.

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Historical fire and Ventenata dubia invasion in a temperate grassland

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Our data revealed that ventenata frequency and cover increased on all plots. However, there was not significantly higher abundance in burned plots in any of the sampling years. In addition, ventenata abundance did not increase more in burned plots over time. Our findings suggest that, unlike cheatgrass, fire may not be a driving factor in the spread and increase of ventenata across the PNB Prairie. This finding has important implications for the management and control of ventenata, as well as the conservation of the PNB Prairie.

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Creating a Great Basin native annual forb seed increase program: Lessons learned

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Our objective was to start a small, native, annual forb production program, testing strategies to increase 6 species over 4 y. We found that seed of native annual forbs can be wild-collected in years with sufficient precipitation, and that they can be propagated using fall planting between rows of landscape fabric, without irrigation. Low-tech harvest methods, including vacuuming or sweeping off landscape fabric, and in some cases collecting and drying entire plants, can work for small-scale increases. For seed cleaning, a variety of sieves are key, and a seed blower can be helpful. We also present our plans for extending this work by testing the establishment of annual forbs in post-fire restoration projects. Our results demonstrate that seed production of native annual forbs can be achieved without specialized equipment or irrigation. For the majority of species, we were able to increase seed sufficiently so that it could be sown in larger agricultural-increase fields.

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