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  1. Since the late 1990s, extensive outbreaks of native bark beetles (Curculionidae: Scolytinae) have affected coniferous forests throughout Europe and North America, driving changes in carbon storage, wildlife habitat, nutrient cycling, and water resource provisioning. Remote sensing is a crucial tool for quantifying the effects of these disturbances across broad landscapes. In particular, Landsat time series (LTS) are increasingly used to characterize outbreak dynamics, including the presence and severity of bark beetle-caused tree mortality, though broad-scale LTS-based maps are rarely informed by detailed field validation. Here we used spatial and temporal information from LTS products, in combination with extensive field data and Random Forest (RF) models, to develop 30-m maps of the presence (i.e., any occurrence) and severity (i.e., cumulative percent basal area mortality) of beetle-caused tree mortality 1997–2019 in subalpine forests throughout the Southern Rocky Mountains, USA. Using resultant maps, we also quantified spatial patterns of cumulative tree mortality throughout the region, an important yet poorly understood concept in beetle-affected forests. RF models using LTS products to predict presence and severity performed well, with 80.3% correctly classified (Kappa = 0.61) and R2 = 0.68 (RMSE = 17.3), respectively. We found that ≥10,256 km2 of subalpine forest area (39.5% of themore »study area) was affected by bark beetles and 19.3% of the study area experienced ≥70% tree mortality over the twenty-three year period. Variograms indicated that severity was autocorrelated at scales < 250 km. Interestingly, cumulative patch-size distributions showed that areas with a near-total loss of the overstory canopy (i.e., ≥90% mortality) were relatively small (<0.24 km2) and isolated throughout the study area. Our findings help to inform an understanding of the variable effects of bark beetle outbreaks across complex forested regions and provide insight into patterns of disturbance legacies, landscape connectivity, and susceptibility to future disturbance.« less
  2. Large-scale global reforestation goals have been proposed to help mitigate climate change and provide other ecosystem services. To explore reforestation potential in the United States, we used GIS analyses, surveys of nursery managers and foresters, and literature synthesis to assess the opportunities and challenges associated with meeting proposed reforestation goals. We considered a scenario where 26 million hectares (64 million acres) of natural and agricultural lands are reforested by 2040 with 30 billion trees at an estimated cost of $33 ($24–$53) billion USD. Cost per hectare will vary by region, site conditions, and other factors. This scenario would require increasing the number of tree seedlings produced each year by 1.7 billion, a 2.3-fold increase over current nursery production levels. Additional investment (not included in the reforestation cost estimate) will be needed to expand capacity for seed collection, seedling production, workforce development, and improvements in pre- and post-planting practices. Achieving this scenario will require public support for investing in these activities and incentives for landowners.