Historic range of variation in disturbance processes: Application to conservation planning.
Regan, Claudia1, 2, Hayward, Gregory1, 3, Romme, William2, 1 USDA Forest Service, Lakewood, Colorado2 Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado3 University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
ABSTRACT- The Rocky Mountain Region of the United States Forest Service relies on information on the natural range of variation in disturbance processes, and vegetation response to disturbance, as an important foundation in providing for ecological sustainability and species conservation. While the historic range of variation (HRV) in ecosystem attributes does not necessarily suggest a desired condition or target for management, it does provide a critical context for understanding ecosystem change and is a solid ecological basis for land management planning, project design, and policy formulation. We are developing this component of our scientific basis for ecological management in Region 2 through collaborations with leading research scientists to produce HRV assessments of terrestrial vegetation in broad ecological sub-regions and several major ecosystem types. These studies are resulting in findings and interpretations that enrich the resource managers' understanding of ecological condition. For example, our HRV studies are highlighting important spatial and temporal variation in historic fire regimes in montane forests at local and regional scales. Findings are also clarifying the expected range of vegetation response to these patterns and are emphasizing the importance of climate. We are working with fire managers, silviculturists, wildlife biologists, and other resource managers to translate this information into appropriate guidance for meeting species conservation objectives. The HRV information is used to identify habitat restoration priorities, determine trajectories of habitat change, understand the capability to produce target habitats, predict the effects of management actions on habitat, provide a foundation for designing standards and guidelines for ecological condition, and provide the context for developing a range of management alternatives that will improve the probability of providing for species viability.
Key words: range of natural variability, species conservation, historic range of variation, natural disturbance
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