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Fiona Noonan Thesis Proposal

February 26 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm MST

Fiona Noonan

Shifting disturbance regimes, shifting ecotones: The influences of wildfire, vegetation dynamics, and climate on Great Basin plant species distributions

Distributions of important rangeland species in the Great Basin—including sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), conifers (Juniperus spp., Pinus spp.), and invasive annual grasses (e.g. Bromus tectorum)—are shifting due to changes in fire regimes, invasive species dynamics, human land use, and the climate. Characterizing how these overlapping disturbances influence species abundance and distribution is critical for both advancing ecological theory and informing land management decision-making, but the specific interactions between these disturbances and sagebrush systems remain poorly understood. To address this gap, my research will employ an existing sagebrush species distribution model (SDM) that improves model predictions by accounting for human-induced factors. I will expand on this innovative SDM to predict distributions for a range of plant functional types in addition to sagebrush, and I will incorporate a broader suite of fire variables (e.g., severity, size) as well as plant functional type interactions (e.g., juniper encroachment). I will use this model to generate predictions of common rangeland species‘ current distributions, while also capturing the consequences of competition and post-disturbance successional dynamics under changing fire regimes and climate. These predictions will highlight plausible vegetation transitions and opportunities for supporting ecological resilience in the face of ongoing disturbance interactions.

Advisor: Megan Cattau

Co-Advisors: Jodi Brandt, Trevor Caughlin, Brittany Brand

When: February 26, 2021
Time: 3:00 PM
Where: Zoom Meeting ID: 941 0810 0257