The Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) is a multi-disciplinary research and development center of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) located in Fort Collins, Colorado. Organizationally, FORT is within the USGS Southwest Region, although our work extends across the Nation and into several other countries. FORT research focuses on needs of the land- and water-management bureaus within the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), other Federal agencies, and those of State and non-government organizations. As a Science Center, we emphasize a multi-disciplinary science approach to provide information for resource-management decisionmaking. FORT’s vision is to maintain and continuously improve the integrated, collaborative, world-class research needed to inform effective, science-based land and resource management. Our science and technological development activities and unique capabilities support all USGS scientific Mission Areas and contribute to successful, collaborative science efforts across the USGS and DOI. We organized our report into an Executive Summary, a cross-reference table, and an appendix. The executive summary provides brief highlights of some key FORT accomplishments for each Mission Area. The table cross-references all major FY2012 and FY2013 science accomplishments with the various Mission Areas that each supports. The one-page accomplishment descriptions in the appendix are organized by USGS Mission Area and describe the many and diverse ways in which our science is applied to resource issues. As in prior years, lists of all FY2012 and FY2013 publications and other product types also are appended.
Ecosystems Dynamics Branch: interdisciplinary research for addressing complex natural resource issues across landscapes and time
The Ecosystem Dynamics Branch of the Fort Collins Science Center offers an interdisciplinary team of talented and creative scientists with exper¬tise in biology, botany, ecology, geology, biogeochemistry, physical sciences, geographic information systems (GIS), and remote-sensing, for tackling complex questions about natural resources. As demand for natural resources increases, the issues facing natural resource managers, planners, policy mak¬ers, industry, and private landowners are increasing in spatial and temporal scope, often involving entire regions, multiple jurisdictions, and long time¬frames. Needs for addressing these issues include (1) a better understanding of biotic and abiotic ecosystem components and their complex interactions; (2) the ability to easily monitor, assess, and visualize the spatially complex movements of animals, plants, water, and elements across highly variable landscapes; and (3) the techniques for accurately predicting both immediate and long-term responses of system components to natural and human-caused change. The overall objectives of our research are to provide the knowledge, tools, and techniques needed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, state agencies, and other stakeholders in their endeavors to meet the demand for natural resources while conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Ecosystem Dynamics scientists use field and laboratory research, data assimilation, and ecological modeling to understand ecosystem patterns, trends, and mechanistic processes. This informa¬tion is used to predict the outcomes of changes imposed on species, habitats, landscapes, and climate across spatiotemporal scales. The products we develop include conceptual models to illustrate system structure and processes; regional baseline and integrated assessments; predictive spatial and mathematical models; literature syntheses; and frameworks or protocols for improved ecosystem monitoring, adaptive management, and program evaluation. The descriptions below provide snapshots of our three research emphases, followed by descriptions of select current projects.
Climate-induced forest dieback as an emergent global phenomenon
Allen, C.D. and D.D. Breshears
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EOS, Transactions North American Geophysical Union
In Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) continued research vital to U.S. Department of the Interior science and management needs and associated USGS programmatic goals. FORT work also supported the science needs of other government agencies as well as private cooperators. Specifically, FORT scientific research and technical assistance focused on client and partner needs and goals in the areas of biological information management, fisheries and aquatic systems, invasive species, status and trends of biological resources, terrestrial ecosystems, and wildlife resources. In addition, FORT's 5-year strategic plan was refined to incorporate focus areas identified in the USGS strategic science plan, including ecosystem-landscape analysis, global climate change, and energy and mineral resource development. As a consequence, several science projects initiated in FY07 were either entirely new research dor amplifications of existing work.
With a focus on biological research, the U.S. Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) develops and disseminates science-based information and tools to support natural resource decision-making. This brochure succinctly describes the integrated science capabilities, products, and services that the FORT science community offers across the disciplines of aquatic systems, ecosystem dynamics, information science, invasive species science, policy analysis and social science assistance, and trust species and habitats.
Fort Collins Science Center: Ecosystem Dynamics Branch
Capabilities: Complex natural resource issues require understanding a web of interactions among ecosystem components that are (1) interdisciplinary, encompassing physical, chemical, and biological processes; (2) spatially complex, involving movements of animals, water, and airborne materials across a range of landscapes and jurisdictions; and (3) temporally complex, occurring over days, weeks, or years, sometimes involving response lags to alteration or exhibiting large natural variation. Scientists in the Ecosystem Dynamics Branch of the U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center (FORT), investigate a diversity of these complex natural resource questions at the landscape and systems levels, with a focus on the following areas…
Many challenging natural resource management issues require consideration of a web of interactions among ecosystem components. The spatial and temporal complexity of these ecosystem problems demands an interdisciplinary approach integrating biotic and abiotic processes. The goals of the Ecosystem Dynamics Branch are to provide sound science to aid federal resource managers and use long-term, place-focused research and monitoring on federal lands to advance ecosystem science. Current studies fall into five general areas. Herbivore-Ecosystem Interactions examines the efficacy of multiple controls on selected herbivore populations and cascading effects through predator-herbivore-plant-soil linkages. Riparian Ecology is concerned with interactions among streamflow, fluvial geomorphology, and riparian vegetation. Integrated Fire Science focuses on the effects of fire on plant and animal communities at multiple scales, and on the interactions between post-fire plant, runoff, and erosion processes. Reference Ecosystems comprises long-term, place-based studies of ecosystem biogeochemistry. Finally, Integrated Assessments is investigating how to synthesize multiple ecosystem stressors and responses over complex landscapes in ways that are useful for management and planning.
Ecological Evaluation of the Abundance and Effects of Elk Herbivory in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 1994-1999
Several National Park Service units in the Intermountain region possess a number of closely related management needs relative to the abundance of wild ungulates and their herbivory effects on plants and ecosystem processes. In 1993, the then National Biological Service (NBS) – now U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Discipline (USGS, BRD) – initiated a series of research studies in four park units in the Intermountain West, into the abundance and effects of ungulates on park ecosystems. Each o these parks received a number of similar research study elements including: (a) a number of new ungulate grazing exclosures (n = 12-21 exclosures per park); (b) aerial survey sightability models to estimate population sizes of ungulates; (c) measures of biomass production and consumption rates near the exclosures and across the landscape; (d) studies of the effects of the grazing on plant abundance, species diversity, and ecosystem effects; and (e) computer model simulations (SAVANNA) of the effects on the ecosystem and plant resources of different ungulate management scenarios. One park unit, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, received funding from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS, BRD) and parallel funding from NPS for an intensive research study of the effects of elk on park ecosystems…
The influence of spatial patterns of landcover and use on hydrological and ecosystem dynamics at the mountain plains interface in the Central United States
Baron, J.S., D. S. Ojima, M. D. Hartman, T. G. F. Kittel, R. B. Lammers, L. Band, and R. A. Pielke
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Proceedings of IGBP/BAHC-LUCC Joints Inter-Core Projects Symposium Kyoto, Japan, 1996