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Project ID: 16-3-01-4

Year: 2016

Date Started: 09/01/2016

Ending Date:  08/31/2021

Title: What makes for a resilient landscape? Climate, fire and forests in the Northern Rockies

Project Proposal Abstract: Resilient landscapes are a fundamental goal of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, yet defining, measuring and managing for resilience remain major challenges. Ecological resilience theory is well developed, but how to operationalize resilience in actual landscapes is unclear, especially in a no-analog future. Fire and forest managers would benefit from knowing how to measure resilience; where, when and why resilience may be lost; and what management options can promote resilience. We propose to quantify ecological and social dimensions of resilience for Northern Rocky Mountain forests and to develop innovative scientific methods for operationalizing forest and landscape resilience concepts. Guided by participatory workshops with stakeholders, we will determine how 21st-century climate and fire regimes are likely to alter the resilience of Northern Rocky Mountain forests and identify management options likely to promote landscape resilience under a range of possible futures. First, we will engage fire, fuels and resource managers and stakeholders at a "Dimensions of Resilience" workshop to identify social and ecological dimensions of resilience, i.e., the multiple characteristics they want to sustain throughout the 21st century, and management options to explore given changing climate and fire regimes. Informed by this stakeholder input, we will then combine state-of-the-art projections of future climate and fire with extensive data on post-fire forest dynamics to model alternative future scenarios and evaluate ecological and social dimensions of resilience through the 21st century at three spatial scales. (i) Stand: How and why might warming climate and changing fire regimes push forest stands over a tipping point? Fire is the dominant disturbance shaping Northern Rockies forests, and post-fire tree regeneration is fundamental to stand-level resilience. We will evaluate mechanisms behind tipping points in a range of future climate-fire scenarios, using the empirically based Forest Vegetation Simulator (Climate-FVS) and a next-generation process-based model (iLand) that can respond dynamically to novel conditions. (ii) Landscape: Where and when might projected changes in climate and fire activity interact with management to enhance or erode landscape resilience? Abrupt transitions at the stand level may scale up and erode landscape resilience, or they may smooth out over larger areas as forest dynamics respond to changing conditions. We will simulate an array of representative Northern Rockies landscapes (areas of wildland-urban interface, production forestry, and wilderness) and potential management options using the spatially explicit implementation of iLand. (iii) Region: How do stand and landscape indicators of resilience scale to the Northern Rockies ecoregion, and what geographical areas are most likely to be vulnerable or resilient to changing climate and fire regimes? We will develop innovative statistical approaches to extrapolate stand- and landscape-level results and assess regional resilience. Probabilistic maps of the resilience indicators generated with stakeholders will be produced to identify geographic areas at risk for crossing tipping points under alternative scenarios. Finally, informed by model and scenario results, we will re-convene with stakeholders at a "Learning about Resilient Futures" workshop to jointly interpret effects of changing climate, fire and management on dimensions of landscape resilience articulated at the first workshop and to specify outreach products. Goals include understanding conditions and management options that promote resilient landscapes and elucidating synergies and tradeoffs among multiple dimensions of resilience. This project will directly benefit fire and forest managers by making resilience concepts useful for managing landscapes during times of profound environmental change.

Principal Investigator: Monica G. Turner

Agency/Organization: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Branch or Dept: Department of Integrative Biology

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Kim L. Moreland

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research & Sponsored Programs

Budget Contact

Kim L. Moreland

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research & Sponsored Programs

Co-Principal Investigator

Daniel C. Donato

Oregon State University

Department of Forest Ecosystems & Society

Co-Principal Investigator

Adena R. Rissman

University of Wisconsin-Madison

College of Agricultural & Life Sciences

Co-Principal Investigator

Anthony L. Westerling

University of California-Merced


Brian J. Harvey

University of Washington

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences


Rupert Seidl

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna

Department of Forest and Soil Sciences

Student Investigator

Winslow D. Hansen

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department of Zoology

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Northern Rockies






Interior West








Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
  ID Type Title
view or print   133 Ph.D. Dissertation Resilience to changing climate and wildfire in subalpine conifer forests of Greater Yellowstone
view or print   3889 Journal Article Ecological Monographs
view or print   4003 Journal Article Philisophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
view or print   3890 Journal Article Ecological Applications
view or print   3809 Journal Article Ecology
view or print   3810 Journal Article Trends in Ecology and Evolution
view or print   3811 Journal Article Nature Communications
view or print   3812 Journal Article Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
view or print   3917 Journal Article Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
view or print   3830 Journal Article Forest Ecology and Management
view or print go to website 3991 Journal Article Global Ecology and Biogeography
view or print go to website 3928 Journal Article Nature Sustainability
view or print   3884 Journal Article Land Use Policy
view or print   3845 Journal Article Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
view or print   366 MS Thesis Looking beyond the mean: Drivers of variability in postfire stand development of Rocky Mountain coni
view or print   367 MS Thesis The use of the word "resilience" in forest and fire management and science in the western United Sta
view or print   7809 Poster Adapting the process-based model iLand to simulate subalpine forest dynamics in Greater Yellowstone
view or print   8305 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Learning About Resilient Futures Workshop
view or print go to website 7930 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Dimensions of Resilience Workshop
view or print   8049 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Fire suppression in 21st century subalpine forests of Greater Yellowstone
view or print   8050 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Does functional diversity increase resilience to more extreme fire regimes in a subalpine forest?
view or print go to website 7924 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Age alone is not enough: Multiple drivers control postfire stand development in Rocky Mountain Conif
view or print go to website 7925 Conference/Symposia/Workshop A perfect storm: Multiple stressors interact to drive postfire regeneration failure of lodgepole pin
view or print   8028 Poster Looking beyond the mean: Drivers of variability in postfire stand development of Rocky Mtn conifers
  go to website 8134 Website Fires in the West may be changing the future of forests
view or print   8328 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Fire-driven changes in subalpine forest landscapes reduce habitat for forest wildlife during the 21s
view or print   8329 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Tipping points in Greater Yellowstone forests with increasing wildfire activity
view or print   8330 Invited Paper/Presentation Abrupt changes in subalpine forest landscapes in a warmer world with more fire

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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