Project Team: Laramie Mountains Ecological Forecasting II
Team Location: U.S. Geological Survey at Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado
Dr. Paul Evangelista (Colorado State University, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory)
Dr. Amanda West (Colorado State University, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory)
Brian Woodward (Center Lead)
In the Laramie Mountain Range in southeastern Wyoming, quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands support a diverse community of vertebrate species and are a source of high biomass productivity. Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and elk (Cervus canadensis) are dependent on mature aspen communities for forage and fawning habitat. Threats to aspen habitat include climate change, over-browsing by wild and domestic ungulates, fire suppression, and large scale aspen die-off, known as Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD). Aspen cover data are limited and incomplete in the region, making it difficult for wildlife managers to evaluate existing habitat. This project used Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager data from June 2016, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) V2, and aspen survey data to develop a current aspen distribution model in the Laramie Range. The resulting map of aspen canopy cover probability was then compared with fire history data to investigate the relationship between fire and aspen regeneration. Additionally, topographic and climate data were used to model a bioclimatic niche for existing aspen and to predict future suitable aspen habitat across Wyoming. The Wyoming Game Fish Department will use the datasets and map products produced to estimate the carrying capacity for mule deer and elk in the region, plan effective population management strategies, and to support future aspen regeneration and management efforts.