Forest ThreatNet

Volume 6, Issue 4 - October/November 2013

Western Threat Center Research Highlights

Vulnerability Assessment Review Prompts Recommendations

RMRSGTR309.jpgTo navigate through the complexities of climate change, land managers often conduct special studies, known as vulnerability assessments (VAs), to identify concerns and prioritize management activities. But do VAs tell the whole story? The Western Threat Center supported a Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) review of VAs for the Southwest and determined that differences in scale and approach across available studies led to an incomplete picture of the region’s vulnerability to climate change impacts. The reviewers recommend that managers critically examine methods when using VAs to support decision making, and to communicate needs to researchers.

For more information, contact Deborah Finch, Rocky Mountain Research Station, at


New Monitoring System Keeps Pace with Changing Fuels

red.brome_5391956.jpgLand managers rely on modeling tools to understand fire behavior and to support threat assessment and decision making. These tools require up-to-date spatial data depicting the amount and condition of fuels across the landscape, so the Western Threat Center is supporting the RMRS’s development of a satellite-based system for annually monitoring and updating fuels information. The system will be particularly useful to managers of non-forested regions where wildland fuels respond quickly to inter-annual variations in vegetation productivity, especially when annual invasive species such as cheatgrass and red brome are present.

Above: Red brome, an invasive annual grass, infests a western landscape. Photo by John M. Randall, The Nature Conservancy,

For more information, contact Matt Reeves, Rocky Mountain Research Station, at


Researchers Assess Impacts to People from a Changing Climate

Natural resource agencies must assess and respond to climate change impacts on both ecological systems and the human communities that influence, interact with, or rely on them. Western Threat Center and RMRS scientists are collaborating on a spatial analysis of ecological, economic, and social data to better understand the vulnerability of people and communities to climate-related changes in forests and grasslands in the Northwest. Results will help managers assess potential tradeoffs associated with natural resource management, and can inform the development of policies and programs that meet the needs of people and communities.

For more information, contact Paige Fischer, Western Threat Center research social scientist, at


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