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Project ID: 16-2-01-13

Year: 2016

Date Started: 09/01/2016

Ending Date:  02/01/2018

Title: Effects of climate change and climate-altered fire regimes on whitebark pine populations

Project Proposal Abstract: Climate change is expected to substantially alter fire regimes throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), which will require rethinking forest management approaches. However, the influence of climate on life-history stages and demographic processes of many forest tree populations within these fire-dependent ecosystems remains unknown. Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.), a species of management concern and dandidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, occurs in fire-dependent ecosystems throughout the Western mountains of the United States and Canada. There is a critical void in our understanding of the impact of changing fire regimes and climate effects on whitebark pine, and a need to develop fire management strategies that address direct and indirect influences of climate change. I propose to take data obtained from my dissertation fieldwork and 1) create a spatially explicit stochastic demographic matrix model, 2) use population viability analysis to assess the impact of decreasing fire return intervals on life-stage sensitivities and extinction risk, and 3) develop land management protocols that protect the most sensitive life stages, and promote strategies that mimimize risk from detrimental fire regimes. Vital rates (i.e., transition probabilities) will be estimated using regeneration data from permanent pots established in 1990 within two regions burned by the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Plot measurements were completed in 1990-1995, 2001, and 2005, and will be revisited in 2016 and 2017. I will first create a habitat suitability model (HSM), and subsequently conduct a stochastic demographic population viability analysis (PVA). The HSM and PVA will be coupled, enabling me to model assess the impact of both climate change and altered fire regimes on whitebark pine populations. I will estimate life-stage specific sensitivities, annual population growth rates (ยป), and extinction risk under past, present, and predicted future fire return intervals. The results will presented to management to 1) prioritize management actions targeted at the most sensitive life stage, now an under novel fire regimes, 2) indicate whether shifts in the fire return interval will result in changes to the most sensitive life stages, allowing managers to create timelines for effective management strategies, and 3) identify fire regimes that lead to high extinction risk, which may enable managers to alter conditions at a landscape scale to avoid the most-extreme scenarios.

Principal Investigator: Diana F. Tomback PhD

Agency/Organization: University of Colorado-Denver

Branch or Dept: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Ryan A. Holland

University of Colorado-Denver

Grants and Contracts

Budget Contact

Ryan A. Holland

University of Colorado-Denver

Grants and Contracts

Student Investigator

Elizabeth R. Pansing

University of Colorado-Denver

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Northern Rockies








Yellowstone National Park




Other Federal Lands

Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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