Research Task: BB06DN7.2.1
Task Manager: Jill Baron
Climate warming is affecting mountain ecosystems in the U.S. West, both directly through changes in water dynamics and indirectly through altered disturbance regimes. The Western Mountain Initiative team explores the effects of climate change on ecological disturbance, responses of forest vegetation, mountain hydrology, and the coupled hydroecological responses that determine vulnerability of these mountain systems to change. Extensive data sets, empirical studies, surveys, and monitoring programs are linked via models to hindcast and forecast the effects of changing climate on a number of factors, including hydrologic changes and glacier dynamics and the consequences of an altered water cycle for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and chemistry. This task investigates the extent to which climate drivers are mediated by regional- or watershed-scale controls on ecosystem processes, thus quantifying vulnerability to climate change in mountain ecosystems. Research objectives focus on ecohydrologic responses in subalpine systems. Objectives of the FORT task include (1) developing vulnerability indices of select western mountain regions in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California to current climate variability and future climate changes using the spatially explicit ecological/hydrologic model RHESSys; (2) continuing long-term ecological research and monitoring (now in its 30th year) of the Loch Vale watershed, a high-altitude catchment in Rocky Mountain National Park; (3) conducting ecohydrological studies in the Loch Vale watershed, to quantify hydrologic conditions across a gradient in soil moisture availability; (4) studying the processes involved and the geographic extent of biogeochemical changes to headwaters ecosystems of the western U.S. in response to glacier and rock glacier melt; and (5) conducting workshops for public land managers to help them develop and implement resource management measures that promote ecosystem adaptation to climate change and reduce the risk of undesirable environmental outcomes.
For more information contact Jill Baron