An ecosystem services framework for multidisciplinary research in the Colorado River headwaters

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A rapidly spreading Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic is killing lodgepole pine forest in the Rocky Mountains, causing landscape change on a massive scale. Approximately 1.5 million acres of lodgepoledominated forest is already dead or dying in Colorado, the infestation is still spreading rapidly, and it is expected that in excess of 90 percent of all lodgepole forest will ultimately be killed. Drought conditions combined with dramatically reduced foliar moisture content due to stress or mortality from Mountain Pine Beetle have combined to elevate the probability of large fires throughout the Colorado River headwaters. Large numbers of homes in the wildland-urban interface, an extensive water supply infrastructure, and a local economy driven largely by recreational tourism make the potential costs associated with such a fire very large. Any assessment of fire risk for strategic planning of pre-fire management actions must consider these and a host of other important socioeconomic benefits derived from the Rocky Mountain Lodgepole Pine Forest ecosystem. This paper presents a plan to focus U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) multidisciplinary fire/beetle-related research in the Colorado River headwaters within a framework that integrates a wide variety of discipline-specific research to assess and value the full range of ecosystem services provided by the Rocky Mountain Lodgepole Pine Forest ecosystem. Baseline, unburned conditions will be compared with a hypothetical, fully burned scenario to (a) identify where services would be most severely impacted, and (b) quantify potential economic losses. Collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service will further yield a distributed model of fire probability that can be used in combination with the ecosystem service valuation to develop comprehensive, distributed maps of fire risk in the Upper Colorado River Basin. These maps will be intended for use by stakeholders as a strategic planning tool for pre-fire management activities and can be updated and improved adaptively on an annual basis as tree mortality, climatic conditions, and management actions unfold. 

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title An ecosystem services framework for multidisciplinary research in the Colorado River headwaters
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher U.S Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Rocky Mountain Geographic Science Center
Description 6 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title Planning for an uncertain future - Monitoring, integration, and adaptation (SIR 2009-5049)
First page 59
Last page 64
Conference Title Third interagency conference on research in the watersheds
Conference Location Estes Park, CO
Conference Date September 8-11, 2008
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N