Presented on November 17, 2022  | Presentation Slides



“Forecasting Dryland Ecosystem Vulnerability to Change: A Cross-System Assessment of Vegetation and Process Responses to Disturbance and Climate Variability on DoD Lands” by Dr. Scott Ferrenberg and Dr. Sasha Reed (SERDP Project RC18-1322)

Many DoD installations are located in U.S. western deserts, which provide critical pre-deployment training grounds that aid in national security. DoD resource managers are tasked with the maintenance of vegetation and ecosystem functions on these extensive and challenging landscapes, for example, managing for soil stability to reduce dust, and for native vegetation to reduce fire and increase forage for wildlife. Management efforts have become increasingly difficult in the face of longer and more extreme droughts and increasing temperatures. Critical training activities also cause physical disturbances that are likely to interact with climate change to affect distributions of habitat-defining plants and ecosystem processes.

This presentation will describe a project that is organized around four primary objectives: (1) assess the vulnerability of plant species and communities to climate change and disturbance on three DoD-relevant dryland installations (i.e., Great Basin, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts) across a latitudinal climatic gradient; (2) scale findings and existing data to assess spatial and temporal variability in the drivers of species vulnerability to climate change and disturbance across this climatic gradient; (3) develop an improved understanding of how vegetation responses to climate change and disturbance will affect key ecosystem processes; and, (4) deliver a robust set of tools for predicting responses of vegetation and ecological processes to climate change and disturbance to support DoD land managers. An improved understanding of how these factors affect DoD lands will provide tools and actionable knowledge for managers to improve outcomes in a changing world.


Speaker Biographies

Dr. Scott Ferrenberg is an ecologist at the University of Montana, in Missoula where he focuses on understanding how rapidly changing environments affect the composition and dynamics of native plant and animal communities. Much of his research centers on water-limited ecosystems of the western United States where he uses a combination of field experiments and quantitative methods to assess the sensitivity and responses of native and invasive species to climate change and a range of disturbance types. A key focus of his work is to test the utility of well-established ecological and evolutionary theory for explaining and forecasting organismal responses to global change pressures and to then translate relevant theory into tools that can be used by land managers and restoration practitioners. His primary goal is to provide unifying frameworks that can be applied by various stakeholders and at a range of scales to address complex socioecological challenges. He works with various stakeholders that include federal agency partners such as the DoD, BLM, United States Department of Agriculture, NPS, and the DOE as well as local and state partners including private landowners. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Allegheny College, a masters degree in entomology from the University of Maryland, and a doctoral degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.


Dr. Sasha Reed is a biogeochemist at the United States Geological Survey in Moab, Utah, focused on understanding how Earth’s ecosystems work and how they respond to change. Her primary research interests include drought and increasing temperature impact on ecosystems, diverse energy options for meeting national demand, consequences of exotic plant invasion and ways to combat them, best practices for dealing with wildfire, and novel management options for increased effectiveness and efficiency in restoration and reclamation. She blends a diversity of scientific approaches to improve the knowledge of the fundamental controls over terrestrial ecosystems, determine how and why they respond to perturbations such as climate and land use change, and explore creative solutions for addressing difficult management problems. Dr. Reed works closely with a range of collaborators including federal agency partners such as the DoD, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Department of Energy, Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Forest Service, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service. She has a bachelor’s degree in organic chemistry from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, and a doctoral degere in biogeochemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder.