Members of the SEFS community and the general public are invited to attend the oral portion of Alina Cansler’s general exam, on Friday, June 6 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm in Anderson Hall, room 22, during which Alina will present her proposed PhD research: “Influence of Fire and Post-fire Succession in Alpine Treeline Ecotones in the northwestern USA" Refreshments and light snacks will be provided.
What: Alina Cansler’s PhD proposal defense (General Exam)
Time: Friday, June 6, 2014, 12:00 pm
Location: Anderson Hall, room 22
Title: Influence of Fire and Post-fire Succession in Alpine Treeline Ecotones in the northwestern USA
Across the western U.S., climate change presents perhaps the biggest challenge to both the idea and the conservation of protected areas, particularly in the context of dynamic and rapidly changing disturbance regimes. This project will examine the effects of a shift in the fire regime of an ecosystem that is very sensitive to climate change: the ecotone from closed forest to open alpine tundra, hereafter the alpine treeline ecotone (ATE). Increased tree establishment in subalpine parkland and an upward movement of treeline are expected in a warming climate, but changes in other factors, particularly disturbance regimes, have received less attention. The same climate warming has been linked to increased area burned by wildfires across the West; indeed the same factors associated with increased tree establishment in some areas—decreased snowpack and longer growing seasons—will also encourage wildfire in subalpine parkland.
It is presently unclear how the subalpine ecotone will respond to the combination of the direct effects of climate and the indirect effects of changing fire regimes. This proposed project will examine burn severity and post-fire regeneration in the subalpine ecotone along elevational and maritime-continental gradients. Geospatial data, aerial photography, and field data will used to understand the relative influences of climate, fire, and endogenous factors (local topography, soils, and biological legacies), thereby enabling inferences about the future of the subalpine parkland in fire-prone ecosystems. This research project addresses our current lack of knowledge about the extent to which recent increases in area burned have impacted the ATE, and how fire changes the location, pattern, and species diversity in the ATE. Because the combined effects of fire occurrence in the ATE, and post-fire pattern and species shifts may have long-term impacts on ecosystem functions such as wildlife habitat use, hydrology, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration, research on the drivers and the effects of fire in the ATE is needed.