Projects‎ > ‎

Aspen Decline in Nevada

Quantifying vulnerability of quaking aspen woodlands and associated bird communities to global climate change in the northern Great Basin

Quaking aspen populations are thought to be declining in much of the west due to altered fire regimes, competition with conifers, herbivory, drought, disease, and insect outbreaks. Aspen stands typically support higher avian biodiversity and abundance than surrounding habitat types, and maintaining current distribution and
 abundance of several avian species in the northern Great Basin is likely tied to the persistence of aspen in the landscape. 

We are examining the effects of climate change scenarios on aspen and associated avian communities by coupling empirical models of avian-habitat relationships with spatiall
y-explicit landscape simulations of vegetation community and disturbance dynamics under various climate change scenarios. Relatively isolated aspen populations on four mountain ranges in northern Nevada comprise our study area. Results will reflect interactions between management decisions (e.g., prescribed fire) and climate change and will be directly relevant to regional landscapes and to management agencies and conservation organizations. 

Our research addresses the following questions: 
1) What is the current successional, structural, and spatial distribution of aspen on the landscape, and how do these factors affect abundance of avian species? 
2) How have aspen stand condition and distribution, and avian abundance and distribution, been shaped by disturbance, e.g., fire? 
3) How is global climate change likely to affect aspen condition and distribution, and what are the implications for avian species? and 
4) How are today’s management strategies, or adaptive adjustments to those strategies, likely to affect long-term risks and persistence of aspen and associated avian communities?

Funding:  USGS

Susan Earnst (PI: USGS), Robert SchellerDoug Shinneman (USGS)Peter Weisberg (UNR)Jian Yang (UNR)