Event Title

Long-term vegetation and disturbance trends in the subalpine ecosystems of the Colorado Plateau

Presenter Information

Jesse L. Morris

Location

USU Eccles Conference Center

Event Website

www.restoringthewest.org

Streaming Media

Abstract

During the mid-1800s, the livelihoods of European settlers arriving to the Colorado Plateau relied heavily upon timber and forage resources located in the subalpine highlands. Over the 20th century, these ecosystems remained vitally important to conservation and society, as melting snowpack sustains many iconic, desert-themed National Parks and also provides recharge to the Colorado River. Additionally, the forested uplands are regional economic centers for ski and summer tourism and also provide forage for sheep and cattle. In recent decades, many of these landforms were impacted by severe native bark beetles outbreaks and wildfire. In the popular media these disturbances are frequently portrayed as artifacts of climate warming. Yet long-term ecological data suggests that the mechanisms promoting these disturbances are more complex and that the ecological status of these systems are deeply intertwined with historical land-use practices – not simply climate alone. A key challenge facing stewards and stakeholders in the Colorado Plateau-region is developing a synthesis of short and long-term ecological data that is useful for management. This talk will focus on utilizing centennial- to millennial-scale records of vegetation and disturbance to contextualize 21st century climate change and associated shifts in disturbance regimes.

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Oct 16th, 11:30 AM Oct 16th, 12:00 PM

Long-term vegetation and disturbance trends in the subalpine ecosystems of the Colorado Plateau

USU Eccles Conference Center

During the mid-1800s, the livelihoods of European settlers arriving to the Colorado Plateau relied heavily upon timber and forage resources located in the subalpine highlands. Over the 20th century, these ecosystems remained vitally important to conservation and society, as melting snowpack sustains many iconic, desert-themed National Parks and also provides recharge to the Colorado River. Additionally, the forested uplands are regional economic centers for ski and summer tourism and also provide forage for sheep and cattle. In recent decades, many of these landforms were impacted by severe native bark beetles outbreaks and wildfire. In the popular media these disturbances are frequently portrayed as artifacts of climate warming. Yet long-term ecological data suggests that the mechanisms promoting these disturbances are more complex and that the ecological status of these systems are deeply intertwined with historical land-use practices – not simply climate alone. A key challenge facing stewards and stakeholders in the Colorado Plateau-region is developing a synthesis of short and long-term ecological data that is useful for management. This talk will focus on utilizing centennial- to millennial-scale records of vegetation and disturbance to contextualize 21st century climate change and associated shifts in disturbance regimes.

http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/rtw/2013/October16/6