During the summer of 2012, images of hillside homes engulfed in flames played on repeat on news stations across the country. In the foothills of Pikes Peak, the Waldo Canyon Fire burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 347 homes, and killed two people between June 23 and July 10, 2012. Catastrophic fires such as the Waldo Canyon Fire are increasingly common throughout the west, especially in the wildland urban interface (WUI). These mega-fires are far from the natural disturbances that occur in many Western ecosystems. Instead, they are the product of a century of federal fire suppression compounded by changing climatic conditions. This scenario is complicated by increasing development in the WUI, where houses literally add fuel to the fire . This research assesses the specific conditions that contributed to the production of vulnerability to the Waldo Canyon Fire.
The awareness of sustainability issues has increased the demand for contemporary environmental, social, and economic solutions. The green building movement, with LEED as the primary assessment standard in the United States, is a major focus of urban sustainability and the built environment. The Catamount Center Dorm, an ~3,000 sq. ft. small environmental education dorm at the rural Catamount Mountain Campus, located in Woodland Park, Colorado, underwent a preliminary LEED evaluation during the early construction stage. This qualitative case study identifies three theoretical constructs that address contestable concepts and gaps within the literature, and may be beneficial for directing future study; they include 1) LEED can serve as an effective educational tool for students, building designers, and LEED accredited professionals 2) LEED impacts building design team dynamics, influencing individual roles, advocacy, and group conversations, 3) LEED provides narrow sustainability solutions within the greater scope of green building practices and should be weighted against the larger ambitions of a project.
The 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan shocked countries into reconsidering the safety of nuclear power. Although, the majority of the world continued business as usual after, Germany decided to eliminate nuclear as a power source altogether. The policy to phase-out nuclear power was the result of four decades of struggle between the pro-nuclear coalition, made up primarily of the CDU and the nuclear power industry, and the anti-nuclear coalition, made up of the anti-nuclear movement and the green party. I used the MACF to explain, why after so many years of struggle, the nuclear phase-out policy was finally put in place. The MACF combines two policy development frameworks: the advocacy coalition framework (Sabatier 1988) and the Environmental Movement Impact Model (Rucht 1999). The framework explains that Germany’s nuclear phase-out was not an impulsive decision, but a drawn out battle between the pro- and anti-nuclear coalitions, which was affected by a variety of external shocks including three nuclear disasters as well as the development of as strong anti-nuclear movement.
Wildfires worldwide are increasing in intensity and frequency while more residents move into the wildland urban interface. Fires such as the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado emphasized this sad reality in June of 2012. Because of worsening conditions, many regions around the United States are exploring innovative policies to ensure residents are protected and the loss of structures is reduced. One such policy is the Prepare, Act, Survive approach developed by the Australians. Prepare, Act, Survive emphasizes mutual responsibility between residents and fire or land management authorities and encourages residents located in fire prone areas to prepare their property well before a blaze. Residents are then formally allowed to stay and defend their properties if they wish to do so or encouraged to leave well before the fire threatens them if they desire. This paper explores both the American Mandatory Evacuation policy and the Australian Prepare, Act, Survive approach. Finally, it predicts how many homes could have potentially been saved if residents had been allowed to stay and defend their property during the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Biological diversity includes the variance in genes, organisms, and relationships found in nature. Also called biodiversity, it provides countless economic, social, and personal benefits to people in the United States and all over the world. In the U.S., this is recognized by the federal government most explicitly in the Endangered Species Act’s protections for those flora and fauna whose survival is least likely and most endangered by human action. Unfortunately, there are many anthropogenic threats to biological diversity. In order to protect this incredible natural resource, responsible management must be implemented across all levels of government. Given the amount of funding, large spatial scales, and public interest at stake, the federal government is the best suited to this task. The federal government must play a key role in the protection of biological diversity. The purpose of this paper is to provide a qualitative analysis of the federal government’s management of biological diversity in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Examining management at these scales is uncommon, yet extremely valuable. By examining management on scales that coincide with the scale of natural processes, we can better see the broad implications and interactions of our management policies. We can also determine how to sharpen management in order to more accurately address these important scales. In order to achieve this, a basic overview of modern conservation science and terms to be utilized will be provided. Building upon this overview, four categories will be describe, which, according to the science, are vital to the preservation of biological diversity. These categories are cores, connectivity, restoration, and monitoring. There will be three standards used to assess the quality of policy. Scientific foundations, the human-nature nexus, and adaptability are these three measures. The Greater Yellowstone ecosystem will then be described. Finally, in each of the four categories, examples of policy or management action will be described and analyzed via the three measures of successful policy. This analysis shall provide examples of policies with varying degrees of success. By extrapolating management from these representative case studies, an aggregate picture of management across the ecosystem will be gained. It is hoped that such analysis will uncover areas where management may be improved and facilitate the spread of successful policies and management ideas. It is also intended as a suitable framework for examining and creating biodiversity management policies in other ecosystems, regions, and countries.
The tree line is a climatic boundary, however its ability to respond to changing climate seems to be constrained by the spatial distribution of trees at the leading edge; compared to abrupt or krummholz tree lines, diffuse tree lines are moving upslope much more readily in response to recent anthropogenic warming. Here we report on the micrometeorological processes that result from the diffuse leading edge of a moving tree line on Pikes Peak, Colorado, USA, and on the impacts these processes have on tree temperatures. We focus on the layering and movement of air in the lower 10m of the atmosphere including the height of the displacement of the zero velocity plane. Our experimental design consisted of 300m upslope transects through the tree line into the alpine tundra where we measured: (1) height of the zero plane displacement using handheld anemometers, (2) temperature of 10cm tall seedlings, 3-5m tall trees, and tundra grasses using an IR camera, (3) temperature and relative humidity at 2.5cm an 2m using Kestrel hand held weather stations, (4) the vertical atmospheric profiles using 10m towers equipped with 8 anemometers at 5 different elevations, (5) vertical movement of air using a bubble-blowing machine. Our results show that (1) the zero plane height decreased exponentially with increasing elevation (R2=0.432, N=57, p<0.0005) from approximately 25cm within the tree line to 2.5cm in the tundra above. The spatial variability of the zero plane height also decreased with elevation. (2) The temperature of small seedlings was (3) closely coupled to the ground vegetation (paired t-test t= 2.213, df=10, p=0.051),but seedlings were on average 3.88°C warmer than trees (paired t-test t= 5.808, df=10, p<0.0005), and trees were 6.1°C colder that the tundra (paired t-test t= 6.617, df=10, p<0.0005). (3) Compared to the air at 2m, the air layer at 2cm had higher temperature (+2.5°C, paired t-test t= 7.205, df=19, p<0.0005), and higher relative humidity higher (+29%, paired t-test t= 9.657, df=19, p<0.0005). (4) The vertical wind profile had a simple and smooth slow down to the zero plane at 2.5cm in the alpine tundra. However the profile was complex in all locations where trees were present: It showed an initial slow down to a very low speed at 3-4m, increase in velocity at 2m, and final slow down to the zero plane at 25cm. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of bubble movement (5) showed that the upper boundary layer was turbulent.
Spatially-organized patches primarily composed of Alpine avens (Geum rossii) on Pikes Peak, CO give the tundra of the 14,000 ft. mountain a freckled appearance. The mechanisms causing formation and maintenance of these patches were examined using parameters such as vegetation height, species abundance, micro-topography, C:N ratios of soils and plants, and soil moisture. This study focused on eight patches by evaluating the above parameters along eight, horizontal 15-18 m transects that ran through the centers of the patches. Shockingly, vegetation height was two times greater within the patch compared to open tundra. This suggests nutrient accumulation within the patch parameters. In this thesis we analyze abiotic, top-down and bottom-up processes, to evaluate these patches. We conclude that this ecosystem is a bi-stable dynamical structure (Lotka-Volterra). In addition, scale-dependent feedback mechanisms (short-distance facilitation and long-distance inhibition) may be a primary contributor to patch formation and maintenance.
Pattern formation in ecosystems via self-organization is an important area of investigation in the field of ecology. Self-organization is the process whereby short-range facilitation and long-range inhibition lead to patterns in ecosystems at varying scales. Can biotic agents, such as key ecosystem engineers, be responsible for patterns of self-organization? We sought to investigate this question on the tundra of Pikes Peak outside Colorado Springs, CO. Aerial images of Pikes Peak reveal distinct patches of alpine avens (Geum rossii) dotting the tundra. Are there any patterns in the distribution and characteristics of these alpine avens patches? Closer examination reveals that evidence of northern pocket gopher (Thomomys talpoides) soil disturbance also speckles the tundra. Are there any links between gopher disturbance and alpine avens patches? We sought to answer these broad questions through a series of three investigations. We examined the large-scale spatial distribution of the avens patches relative to each other, surface gopher disturbance in relation to individual avens patches, and the underground characteristics of the tundra below the patches. Our findings indicate that while a link can be established between gopher disturbance and avens patches, it is not the complete picture. We found that contrary to the expectation that avens patches would follow a regular distribution at smaller distances, they were in fact randomly distributed at small distances and clumped at greater distances as shown by Ripley’s K tests. In line with our hypotheses, we found that gopher disturbance was clumped, and occurred more often within avens patches than would be expected given disturbance frequency across the tundra, p=0.001 (chi-squared=10.88, DF=1) for quadrant one, and p=0.0001 (chi-squared=306.96, DF=1) for quadrant two. Finally, we discovered an interesting pattern of what appears to be disintegrated bedrock beneath the avens patches, which may have implications for avens patch resilience on the tundra. In t-tests comparing mean resistivity of soil underground inside and outside the patch, p<0.05 for all depths except the lowest depth in one patch. In sum, it appears from our findings that while gopher disturbance may be necessary for avens patches on the Pikes Peak tundra, it is not sufficient. This is given the fact that gopher disturbance occurs in areas where avens patches do not, and avens patch boundaries are crisply defined while gopher disturbance is diffuse. Evidence does seem to point to self-organization on the tundra, with gopher disturbance creating short-range facilitation for alpine avens, and some mechanism of long-range inhibition preventing avens patches from occurring everywhere on the tundra.
Long term and large-scale ecological studies often require intensive sampling and replication. However, the inevitable impacts resulting from intensive researcher activity are often considered negligible and largely ignored in data analysis and interpretation of ecological data. This thesis study examines the impact of researcher trampling activity on the density and diversity of understory fern and woody seedling communities in a northern temperate forest research plot in Northern Wisconsin. I established thirty 1X1 m plots in heavily trampled, moderately trampled, and untrampled locations on and near the Wabikon Lake Forest Dynamics Plot. Fern and woody seedlings were identified to species, and fern species richness and Shannon’s diversity scores for woody seedlings analyzed for each plot and across trampling treatments. Fern and woody seedling diversity varied significantly with trampling intensity (ferns: Chi 2 = 9.772, df = 2, p = 0.008; woody seedlings: Chi 2 = 10.546, df = 2, p = 0.005). Decreases in fern density occurred between control and moderately trampled (MW = 269.000, WW = 734.000, p = 0.006) and between control and heavily trampled locations (MW = 283.500, WW = 784.500, p = 0.012), however moderately and heavily disturbed locations did not vary significantly in fern density (MW = 405.500, WW = 870.500, p = 0.485). Overall seedling density showed no significant variation between trampling treatments, however individual species assessments of Acer saccharum and Fraxinus americana seedlings indicate a significant decrease between trampling treatments for both species. Fraxinus americana seedling density decreased significantly control and moderately trampled (MW = 306.000, WW = 771.000, p = 0.031) and control and heavily trampled plots (MW = 317.500, WW = 782.500, p = 0.047), with no significant decrease between moderately and heavily trampled plots (MW = 436.000, WW = 901.000, p = 0.832). Conversely, Acer saccharum seedlings did not decrease significantly between control and moderately trampled plots (MW = 440.500, WW = 905.500, p = .874), but decreased significantly between control and heavily trampled (MW = 310.000, WW = 775.000, p = 0.008) and between moderately and heavily trampled locations (MW = 322.500, WW = 787.500, p = 0.013). Significant reductions in density and diversity of understory communities suggest that researcher activity can significantly alter a study ecosystem. This has both ecological and ethical implications, as researcher-induced alterations to understory composition may bias ecologists’ understanding of ecosystem dynamics and ecosystem response to environmental change.
Water pollution in Bali due to human waste and agricultural runoff is a serious concern. Social and cultural influences such as rigid social structures, tourism, and weak infrastructure contribute to water pollution on the island. In an attempt to quantify the extent of the pollution, nutrient concentrations and other relevant variables were measured at seven points along the Yeh Ho River seven times in June, 2013. Interviews were also conducted to provide social and cultural context. The results of the study indicate that nutrient concentrations increase significantly as the water travels downstream from 15 (± 1.9) to 40 (± 3.2) ppm nitrate-NO3 and from 0.16 (± 0.06) to 0.61 (± 0.06) ppm phosphorous-PO4. In addition, nutrient concentrations on June 18th were higher across all sampling sites than the measurements on other days by 9.0 (± 2.4) ppm nitrate-NO3 and by 0.53 (± 0.06) ppm phosphorous-PO4. Generally, the levels of N and P in the Yeh Ho River are significantly higher than the expected natural background levels of nutrients in rivers. These trends are likely attributable to significant, uncontrolled, anthropogenic inputs into the Yeh Ho River. The qualitative data corroborates this interpretation. Other explanations for this nutrient increase include changing uptake rate due to geomorphological changes of the river, or systemic error introduced by sampling downstream sites later. However, these factors are likely negligible relative to anthropogenic inputs.