Resiliency and Vulnerability of Boreal Forest Habitat to the Interaction of Climate and Fire Disturbance across DoD Lands of Interior Alaska
Scott Goetz | Northern Arizona University
The overarching objective of this project is to investigate changing vegetation dynamics across Department of Defense (DoD) lands of interior Alaska, building upon prior work documenting changes in arctic and boreal vegetation over the past three decades. This will be done while using multi-scale satellite observations and associated geospatial data sets and field measurements. This work will be couched in a framework assessing the resiliency and vulnerability of boreal forest composition, thus in habitat, to observed changes in climate (temperature and moisture changes and variability) and related fire regimes.
This research has four specific objectives. The first two objectives include field measurements and remote sensing, making use of multi-scale satellite image data to link changes in post-fire vegetation recovery and tree species composition change, as well as to document changes in patterns and rates of boreal tree productivity and mortality in relation to time series of satellite-derived and other geospatial environmental variables. The third objective makes use of the data products and outputs of the first two objectives coupled with the development of spatial statistical models designed to predict near-future vulnerability of boreal tree composition, productivity and mortality to changes in climate and related environmental drivers, including fire disturbance. A web interface will be developed to provide information useful for specific adaptive management objectives, allowing options that emphasize management priorities. It will also include a straightforward protocol for updating outputs based on new data sets and sources. The platform the researchers will develop, will be linked to existing DoD geospatial interfaces, such as Geographic Information Supporting Military Operations (GISMO).
The vulnerability assessment approach the research team will develop in consultation and interactions with Alaskan DoD resource managers will condense complex multi-layered information into conceptually simple categorizations that reflect directional changes in environmental suitability and species adaptive capacity. Because this approach will be applied spatially across landscapes using a coordinated set of analyses, model development, and local validation and refinement, it will be tailored to specific needs of each installation and areas within. These approaches, tools and outcomes will benefit management efforts for DoD lands within Alaska but also have utility for applications elsewhere, including for other land management agencies and efforts.