Landscape Analysis

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TreeMap is a tree-level model of U.S. forests. New data delivery and visualization improvements make it easier to use

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Evaluating spatial coverage of the greater sage-grouse umbrella to conserve sagebrush-dependent species biodiversity within the Wyoming basins

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Biodiversity is threatened due to land-use change, overexploitation, pollution, and anthropogenic climate change, altering ecosystem functioning around the globe. Protecting areas rich in biodiversity is often difficult without fully understanding and mapping species’ ecological niche requirements. As a result, the umbrella species concept is often applied, whereby conservation of a surrogate species is used to indirectly protect species that occupy similar ecological communities. One such species is the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), which has been used as an umbrella to conserve other species within the sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystem. Sagebrush-steppe ecosystems within the United States have experienced drastic loss, fragmentation, and degradation of remaining habitat, threatening sagebrush-dependent fauna, resulting in west-wide conservation efforts to protect sage-grouse habitats, and presumably other sagebrush wildlife. We evaluated the effectiveness of the greater sage-grouse umbrella to conserve biodiversity using data-driven spatial occupancy and abundance models for seven sagebrush-dependent (obligate or associated) species across the greater Wyoming Basins Ecoregional Assessment (WBEA) area (345,300 km2) and assessed overlap with predicted sage-grouse occurrence. Predicted sage-grouse habitat from empirical models only partially (39–58%) captured habitats identified by predicted occurrence models for three sagebrush-obligate songbirds and 60% of biodiversity hotspots (richness of 4–6 species). Sage-grouse priority areas for conservation only captured 59% of model-predicted sage-grouse habitat, and only slightly fewer (56%) biodiversity hotspots. We suggest that the greater sage-grouse habitats may be partially effective as an umbrella for the conservation of sagebrush-dependent species within the sagebrush biome, and management actions aiming to conserve biodiversity should directly consider the explicit mapping of resource requirements for other taxonomic groups.

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PODs story map from CO Forest Restoration Institute

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Potential Operational Delineations (PODs) a strategic collaborative spatial wildfire planning framework and decision support tool for wildfire response and mitigation. Background, primer, and use of sections included.

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Using PODs to integrate fire and fuels planning

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This study found that Potential Wildfire Operational Delineations (PODs) were helpful for validating fuels treatment plans and supporting communication among agency staff, and with private landowners and collaborators. Challenges included lack of technical knowledge and skills, unclear leadership direction, potential misalignment with other forest management goals and community and agency buy-in to using PODs.

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Potential Operational Delineations (PODs) in practice

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Reducing PODs (potential operational delineations) to a network of suppression-focused fuel breaks may dilute the intent and diminish the richness of the framework. Using PODs and fuel breaks to perpetuate fire exclusion is not likely to be effective and may set us up for failure. In many forest types, we may need to rethink design of fuel breaks along POD boundaries to support expansion of proactive use of fire.

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Quaking aspen climate-growth variability in Great Basin sky islands

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The Great Basin is an arid province located in the interior western United States. The region encompasses millions of hectares and quaking aspen forests comprise a minor portion of the total area. However, montane aspen forests play a disproportionately large role in providing ecosystem services in the region, including water retention, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, livestock forage, and recreational uses. With warming temperatures, increasing evaporative demand, and heightened precipitation variability, the future of aspen has become a critical concern. Using dendroecological approaches, we assessed growth patterns of 20 aspen stands across three geographically isolated “sky island” mountain ranges spanning portions of the northcentral Great Basin. We anticipated that the growth of Great Basin aspen would be strongly influenced by regional climatic patterns and largely in synchrony. Results revealed a more complex growth dynamic that varied among mountain ranges and across environmental gradients. In particular, aspen climate-growth relationships in the slightly dryer Ruby Mountains were strongly and positively correlated (r > 0.5) with previous fall to winter moisture availability. The Jarbidge Mountains had a positive but modest relationship with previous fall to winter moisture availability (r > 0.3). Climate-growth response in the Santa Rosa Mountains, the wettest range, showed no significant response to moisture availability during any time period examined but had greater tree-ring growth with warmer May temperatures. Although tree-ring centennial (1910 – 2010) growth trends were positive for all three mountain ranges, only the Santa Rosa Mountains maintained a positive recent growth trend (1970 – 2010). Moreover, distinct temporal shifts in tree growth-climate relationships in each mountain range suggest potentially unique aspen population adaptations to climate variability. For instance, in two of the mountain  ranges, there was a shift from positive/neutral to negative growth relationships with temperature starting around the 1963 – 1987 time period, while tree growth also began simultaneously responding more positively to  moisture availability. These growth shifts and observed enhanced sensitivities to monthly and seasonal climate variables over time may reflect dynamic tree growth responses caused by ongoing global climate change, but that may be tempered by local or regional factors, such as the relative availability and timing of soil moisture provided by spring snowmelt. A better understanding of biogeographic variation and causality in aspen growth could  provide multiple management pathways governed by resilience characteristics in the face of future anthropogenic and climatic threats.

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Landscape Explorer

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Explore past and present landscapes from the Great Plains to the Pacific coast. This easy-to-use map uses historic and current aerial imagery to highlight how our landscapes have changed since the mid-20th century and how we can conserve our natural heritage.

Uses of the tool highlighted by Intermountain West Joint Venture.

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Grassland intactness outcompetes species as a more efficient surrogate in conservation design

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Mapped representations of species−habitat relationships often underlie approaches to prioritize area-based conservation strategies to meet conservation goals for biodiversity. Generally a single surrogate species is used to inform conservation design, with the assumption that conservation actions for an appropriately selected species will confer benefits to a broader community of organisms. Emerging conservation frameworks across western North America are now relying on derived measures of intactness from remotely sensed vegetation data, wholly independent from species data. Understanding the efficacy of species-agnostic planning approaches is a critical step to ensuring the robustness of emerging conservation designs. We developed an approach to quantify ‘strength of surrogacy’, by applying prioritization algorithms to previously developed species models, and measuring their coverage provided to a broader wildlife community. We used this inference to test the relative surrogacy among a suite of species models used for conservation targeting in the endangered grasslands of the Northern Sagebrush Steppe, where careful planning can help stem the loss of private grazing lands to cultivation. In this test, we also derived a simpler surrogate of intact rangelands without species data for conservation targeting, along with a measure of combined migration representative of key areas for connectivity. Our measure of intactness vastly outperformed any species model as a surrogate for conservation, followed by that of combined migration, highlighting the efficacy of strategies that target large and intact rangeland cores for wildlife conservation and restoration efforts.

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Prioritizing landscape treatments

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Presenters will share an overall framework, analysis considerations plus a case study from the Southwest Idaho Wildfire Crisis Landscape. Manager questions and experiences to guide this session are encouraged.

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Future of America’s forest and rangelands: Forest Service 2020 Resources Planning Act Assessment

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The 2020 Resources Planning Act (RPA) Assessment summarizes findings about the status, trends, and projected future of the Nation’s forests and rangelands and the renewable resources that they provide. The 2020 RPA Assessment specifically focuses on the effects of both socioeconomic and climatic change on the U.S. land base, disturbance, forests, forest product markets, rangelands, water, biodiversity, and outdoor recreation. Differing assumptions about population and economic growth, land use change, and global climate change from 2020 to 2070 largely influence the outlook for U.S. renewable resources. Many of the key themes from the 2010 RPA Assessment cycle remain relevant, although new data and technologies allow for deeper and wider investigation. Land development will continue to threaten the integrity of forest and rangeland ecosystems. In addition, the combination and interaction of socioeconomic change, climate change, and the associated shifts in disturbances will strain natural resources and lead to increasing management and resource allocation challenges. At the same time, land management and adoption of conservation measures can reduce pressure on natural resources. The RPA Assessment findings and associated data can be useful to resource managers and policymakers as they develop strategies to sustain natural resources.

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