RCN-SEES: Advancing our social and environmentalunderstanding of complex mountain landscapes and their vulnerability to environmental change
This project will establish a Research Coordination Network (RCN) to develop national and international research collaborations and partnerships to address the overarching question of how to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems in complex mountain landscapes. The Northern Rockies region of the United States contains the largest undeveloped landscapes in the contiguous United States. However, this region is undergoing rapid growth in human populations through both urbanization and ex-urbanization. As is typical of mountain-valley environments throughout the world, this region is a complex coupled natural-human system: a set of landscapes characterized by dramatic ecological and climatic changes and socioeconomic transitions. This effort leverages a core group from the University of Idaho, Washington State University, University of Montana and the United States Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station to coordinate research planning for informing decision processes and sustainable management of forest and water resources in complex mountain landscapes. The research network for this region will be a partnership of academic institutions, state, and federal agencies, Native American tribes, and non-governmental organizations. An important goal of this RCN is to effectively network multiple sources of knowledge on how ecosystems function in complex mountain landscapes for the purpose of improving social and ecological resilience and sustainability of their natural resources and ecosystem services. The work will first demonstrate this process in the Northern Rockies region encompassing Idaho, eastern Washington, western Montana, Wyoming, and southwestern mountain regions of Canada. Subsequent work will extend the model to other complex mountain landscapes nationally and internationally. Extension of the regional model internationally will be facilitated through collaborations and partnerships developed with researchers and organizations in eleven countries throughout Europe, North and South America and through the International Long Term Ecological Research Network.
This project will have substantial broader impacts on local stakeholders and land managers through activities that build and expand partnerships with public, Native American, and private institutions of education and through outreach to inform decision making and governance that improves social and ecological resilience. Education programs will range from creating national and international graduate student associations to curriculum development, with a primary objective being to increase involvement of individuals from underrepresented groups. Annual meetings, national and international workshops, and modern communication capabilities will facilitate exchanges that incorporate findings across local to international boundaries.