Location

Logan, UT

Event Website

http://restoringthewest.org/

Streaming Media

Abstract

Piñon-juniper ecosystems in the western U.S. are often targeted for restoration due to concerns that past land uses have contributed to dense stand structures and invasion of trees into adjacent community types, resulting in diminished biotic and abiotic resources and increased vulnerability to severe disturbance events. Where stands have become more dense in recent decades, biomass removal may be compatible with restoration objectives, and biomass use (e.g., harvesting for fuel) may provide economic incentives for restoration. However, there is tremendous range of natural variability among piñon-juniper communities, resulting in substantial differences in stand-age structure, species diversity, disturbance regimes, and population dynamics across landscapes. While land use (e.g., livestock grazing) and non-native species have influenced piñon-juniper conditions and dynamics, effects vary depending on environmental susceptibility to specific land-use histories. Climate variability is also a key driver of piñon-juniper dynamics; yet, this influence has largely been under-appreciated compared to land use. Recently, drought-induced dieback events have dramatically altered piñon-juniper ecosystems over large landscapes in the Southwest, and may provide insights into potential effects of future climate change, as well as potentially redefining the role of restoration.

Restoration projects based on meeting ecological objectives should consider natural variability, different land use histories, and recent mortality events, and avoid applying a uniform approach. Effective restoration strategies (both passive and active) are more likely when based on identification of specific restoration needs (e.g., age structure alteration, invasive species control) for a given landscape, and when validated by scientific evidence that: a) elucidates key differences between historical and contemporary conditions; and b) identifies underlying causes of those differences. Restoration efficacy may be further enhanced when potential future interactions among land use, invasive species, and climate are considered. In this presentation, I discuss these topics in light of biomass harvest potential in piñon-juniper ecosystems, with a focus on the Colorado Plateau and the Four-Corners region.

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Oct 18th, 12:00 AM

Pinyon Juniper Restoration Ecology: Compatibilities and Incompatibilities of Biomass Harvesting in the Southwest

Logan, UT

Piñon-juniper ecosystems in the western U.S. are often targeted for restoration due to concerns that past land uses have contributed to dense stand structures and invasion of trees into adjacent community types, resulting in diminished biotic and abiotic resources and increased vulnerability to severe disturbance events. Where stands have become more dense in recent decades, biomass removal may be compatible with restoration objectives, and biomass use (e.g., harvesting for fuel) may provide economic incentives for restoration. However, there is tremendous range of natural variability among piñon-juniper communities, resulting in substantial differences in stand-age structure, species diversity, disturbance regimes, and population dynamics across landscapes. While land use (e.g., livestock grazing) and non-native species have influenced piñon-juniper conditions and dynamics, effects vary depending on environmental susceptibility to specific land-use histories. Climate variability is also a key driver of piñon-juniper dynamics; yet, this influence has largely been under-appreciated compared to land use. Recently, drought-induced dieback events have dramatically altered piñon-juniper ecosystems over large landscapes in the Southwest, and may provide insights into potential effects of future climate change, as well as potentially redefining the role of restoration.

Restoration projects based on meeting ecological objectives should consider natural variability, different land use histories, and recent mortality events, and avoid applying a uniform approach. Effective restoration strategies (both passive and active) are more likely when based on identification of specific restoration needs (e.g., age structure alteration, invasive species control) for a given landscape, and when validated by scientific evidence that: a) elucidates key differences between historical and contemporary conditions; and b) identifies underlying causes of those differences. Restoration efficacy may be further enhanced when potential future interactions among land use, invasive species, and climate are considered. In this presentation, I discuss these topics in light of biomass harvest potential in piñon-juniper ecosystems, with a focus on the Colorado Plateau and the Four-Corners region.

http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/rtw/2011/Breakout1/2