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View: Abstract

Ecosystem dynamics and disturbance in mountain wildernesses: Assessing vulnerability of natural resources to change

Fagre, D.B., and D.L. Peterson. 2000. Ecosystem dynamics and disturbance in mountain wildernesses: Assessing vulnerability of natural resources to change. In D.N. Cole, S.F. McCool, W.T. Borrie, and J. O'Loughlin, Jennifer (comps.), Wilderness Science in a Time of Change Conference - Volume 3: Wilderness as a Place for Scientific Inquiry, May 23-27, 1999, Missoula, MT, USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-3, p. 74-81, Ogden, Utah: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Abstract

An integrated program of ecosystem modeling and extensive field studies at Glacier and Olympic National Parks has quantified many of the ecological processes affected by climatic variability and disturbance. Models have successfully estimated snow distribution, annual watershed discharge, and stream temperature variation based on seven years of monitoring. Various climatic scenarios were applied with the models to examine potential future wilderness conditions. This modeling indicates that reduced net primary productivity and altered disturbance patterns can be expected in dry, east-side forest ecosystems in Montana and Washington under climatic warming. In addition, empirical studies show that climatic variability has strong teleconnections with tree growth and regeneration at annual to decadal scales, resulting in predictable, directional changes under different climatic scenarios. A transect of mountain bioregions from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains, which builds on past research, is determining how future climatic variability will affect wilderness in the context of regional ecosystem dynamics.