Disturbance Regimes in Rocky Mountain Subalpine Forests: Multidecadal- to Millennial-scale Patterns, Causes, and Consequences
Forested ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains are strongly influenced by natural disturbances from wildfires and insect outbreaks. Climate exerts strong controls on these disturbances at inter-annual to decadal scales, but less is known about climate-disturbance interactions over longer time scales. Ongoing research by the PI focuses on quantifying historic fire regimes over the past 4000 years in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, through the analysis of charcoal and pollen in six high-resolution lake-sediment records. The proposed research builds on this foundation by developing new proxies for inferring the timing and ecological consequences of forest disturbances using carbon and nitrogen isotopes. The existing dataset offers unparalleled opportunities for calibrating disturbance signatures in the isotope record, because disturbance history
spanning the past 350 years is known from previously-published tree-ring records. This research is novel in the western U.S. and holds promise for helping to identify past disturbances from insect outbreaks. The work further helps establish the PI's research program through leveraging existing datasets, developing new techniques to support future grant proposals and peer-reviewed publications, fostering collaborations within the University, and by providing research opportunities for graduate students.