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  1. Abstract Expanding the global protected area network is critical for addressing biodiversity declines and the climate crisis. However, how climate change will affect ecosystem representation within the protected area network remains unclear. Here we use spatial climate analogs to examine potential climate-driven shifts in terrestrial ecoregions and biomes under a +2 °C warming scenario and associated implications for achieving 30% area-based protection targets. We find that roughly half of land area will experience climate conditions that correspond with different ecoregions and nearly a quarter will experience climates from a different biome. Of the area projected to remain climatically stable, 46% is currently intact (low human modification). The area required to achieve protection targets in 87% of ecoregions exceeds the area that is intact, not protected, and projected to remain climatically stable within those ecoregions. Therefore, we propose that prioritization schemes will need to explicitly consider climate-driven changes in patterns of biodiversity.
  2. Abstract Climate change is anticipated to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts, with major impacts to ecosystems globally. Broad-scale assessments of vegetation responses to drought are needed to anticipate, manage, and potentially mitigate climate-change effects on ecosystems. We quantified the drought sensitivity of vegetation in the Pacific Northwest, USA, as the percent reduction in vegetation greenness under droughts relative to baseline moisture conditions. At a regional scale, shrub-steppe ecosystems—with drier climates and lower biomass—showed greater drought sensitivity than conifer forests. However, variability in drought sensitivity was considerable within biomes and within ecosystems and was mediated by landscape topography, climate, and soil characteristics. Drought sensitivity was generally greater in areas with higher elevation, drier climate, and greater soil bulk density. Ecosystems with high drought sensitivity included dry forests along ecotones to shrublands, Rocky Mountain subalpine forests, and cold upland sagebrush communities. In forests, valley bottoms and areas with low soil bulk density and high soil available water capacity showed reduced drought sensitivity, suggesting their potential as drought refugia. These regional-scale drought-sensitivity patterns discerned from remote sensing can complement plot-scale studies of plant physiological responses to drought to help inform climate-adaptation planning as drought conditions intensify.
  3. Researchers are increasingly examining patterns and drivers of postfire forest recovery amid growing concern that climate change and intensifying fires will trigger ecosystem transformations. Diminished seed availability and postfire drought have emerged as key constraints on conifer recruitment. However, the spatial and temporal extent to which recurring modes of climatic variability shape patterns of postfire recovery remain largely unexplored. Here, we identify a north–south dipole in annual climatic moisture deficit anomalies across the Interior West of the US and characterize its influence on forest recovery from fire. We use annually resolved establishment models from dendrochronological records to correlate this climatic dipole with short-term postfire juvenile recruitment. We also examine longer-term recovery trajectories using Forest Inventory and Analysis data from 989 burned plots. We show that annual postfire ponderosa pine recruitment probabilities in the northern Rocky Mountains (NR) and the southwestern US (SW) track the strength of the dipole, while declining overall due to increasing aridity. This indicates that divergent recovery trajectories may be triggered concurrently across large spatial scales: favorable conditions in the SW can correspond to drought in the NR that inhibits ponderosa pine establishment, and vice versa. The imprint of this climatic dipole is manifest for years postfire,more »as evidenced by dampened long-term likelihoods of juvenile ponderosa pine presence in areas that experienced postfire drought. These findings underscore the importance of climatic variability at multiple spatiotemporal scales in driving cross-regional patterns of forest recovery and have implications for understanding ecosystem transformations and species range dynamics under global change.« less
  4. Abstract

    Addressing how ecosystem services (ES) are distributed among groups of people is critical for making conservation and environmental policy-making more equitable. Here, we evaluate the distribution and equity of changes in ES benefits across demographic and socioeconomic groups in the United States (US) between 2020 and 2100. Specifically, we use land cover and population projections to model potential shifts in the supply, demand, and benefits of the following ES: provision of clean air, protection against a vector-borne disease (West Nile virus), and crop pollination. Across the US, changes in ES benefits are unevenly distributed among socioeconomic and demographic groups and among rural and urban communities, but are relatively uniform across geographic regions. In general, non-white, lower-income, and urban populations disproportionately bear the burden of declines in ES benefits. This is largely driven by the conversion of forests and wetlands to cropland and urban land cover in counties where these populations are expected to grow. In these locations, targeted land use policy interventions are required to avoid exacerbating inequalities already present in the US.

  5. Abstract Changing disturbance regimes and climate can overcome forest ecosystem resilience. Following high-severity fire, forest recovery may be compromised by lack of tree seed sources, warmer and drier postfire climate, or short-interval reburning. A potential outcome of the loss of resilience is the conversion of the prefire forest to a different forest type or nonforest vegetation. Conversion implies major, extensive, and enduring changes in dominant species, life forms, or functions, with impacts on ecosystem services. In the present article, we synthesize a growing body of evidence of fire-driven conversion and our understanding of its causes across western North America. We assess our capacity to predict conversion and highlight important uncertainties. Increasing forest vulnerability to changing fire activity and climate compels shifts in management approaches, and we propose key themes for applied research coproduced by scientists and managers to support decision-making in an era when the prefire forest may not return.