New NC CASC Project: Determining Successful Management and Restoration Strategies for Pinyon-Juniper Communities in the Face of Changing Climate and Wildfire
Determining Successful Management and Restoration Strategies for Pinyon-Juniper Communities in the Face of Changing Climate and Wildfire
Pinyon-juniper woodlands are important ecosystems in the western U.S. that provide numerous critical environmental, economic, and cultural benefits. For example, pinyon pines are a significant cultural resource for multiple Native American Tribes and provide necessary habitat for plants and wildlife (including at risk species, such as the pinyon-jay). Despite their importance, stress put on pinyon-juniper woodlands by wildfires and other interacting effects of climate change are causing major population declines of these woodland trees.
Such changes to pinyon-juniper woodlands lead to uncertainty for land managers on best practices for protecting these ecosystems from stand replacing fire (where most or all of the trees are killed), and restoring pinyon-juniper communities when fire does occur. To address these uncertainties, researchers are collaborating with a diverse set of land managers, scientists and tribal partners to answer two questions: (1) How does a holistic understanding of the ways tree thinning and fire affect pinyon-juniper woodlands lead to improved management options? and (2) What innovative restoration techniques can restore pinyon-juniper communities following fire in the face of climate change?
The research team will use long-term observational data and sites managed by federal and tribal partners to explore ecosystem health and regeneration patterns over pinyon-juniper woodlands that have experienced thinning or fire. This will include assessments of rare and threatened plant species. The researchers will also test a suite of novel restoration options following past fires to provide tools for pinyon-juniper restoration success in places where natural post-fire regrowth is not occurring. Taken together, this inclusive research project will address some of the most pressing resource management information needs in order to develop strategies to sustain pinyon-juniper woodlands and the many services they provide.
photo credit: NPS