Projecting Climate Change Effects on Aspen Distribution and Productivity in the Central and Northern Rockies by Coupling Hydrological and Landscape-disturbance Models

Douglas Shinneman
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 7/18/2022

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Aspen woodlands are both “biological hotspots” and “keystone ecosystems” in the western United States, meaning that loss of aspen will result in the loss of numerous other plant and animal species. Aspen is also economically and socially important, producing high quality forage for livestock and wildlife, as well as drawing tourists and improving local economies. Aspen is currently undergoing a region-wide decline, and climate-change predictions show that within 50 years approximately 40% of western aspen stands will no longer have a suitable climate. The intent of this research is to investigate the fundamental controls on aspen productivity and survivability across the central and northern Rockies, and to specifically project the likely effects of altered moisture and fire regimes on aspen under climate change. Research results will help land owners and managers to strategically mitigate for predicted climate change by evaluating new management strategies and adjusting social and economic goals in areas vulnerable to aspen loss. The project provides an avenue for information exchange among scientists, land stewards, and others with an interest in maintaining aspen woodlands across the western United States.

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The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.


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