Western Mountain Initiative — Colorado

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Mountain ecosystems of the western United States provide irreplaceable goods and services such as water, wood, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities, but their potential responses to anticipated climatic changes are poorly understood. The overarching objective of the Western Mountain Initiative is to understand and predict these responses, emphasizing the sensitivities, thresholds, resistance, and resilience of Western mountain ecosystems to climatic variability and change. Objectives of the FORT task include (1) developing vulnerability indices of select western mountain regions in Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Washington, 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 26th year) of the Loch Vale Watershed, a high-altitude catchment in Rocky Mountain National Park; (3) forecasting future impacts of climate change with insect outbreaks through the use of remote sensing and ecosystem models; and (4) providing the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the National Park Service with a comprehensive document on adaptations of national parks to climate change (see Preliminary review of adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems and resources, Chapter 4: National Parks).