• The 30-year outcome of assisted regeneration treatments in a burned and salvaged Interior Alaska boreal forest

      Allaby, Andrew; Juday, Glenn; Young, Brian; Yarie, John (2015-08)
      This study contributes to the understanding of the persistence of silvicultural treatments into the stem exclusion stage of forest development in an experiment originally designed to test the effectiveness of various white spruce (Picea glauca Moench [Voss]) regeneration practices. Many studies in the North American boreal forest address the effect of silvicultural treatments on a single tree species, specifically white spruce in the great majority of cases. The experiment measured in this study provided an excellent opportunity to compare treatment effects on white spruce density and growth. The Rosie Creek Fire Tree Regeneration Installation experiment represents an operational-scale, spatially-explicit, replicated design on a single site disturbed consecutively by high-severity wildfire and clearcut salvage harvest. Three hierarchical factors, each with multiple levels, were examined: landform type, ground scarification methods, and white spruce regeneration methods. All three of the experimental factors exercised continuing influence on the patterns of white spruce regeneration and growth. The treatment effects did not attenuate over time for white spruce, and we found statistically significant effects that the original researchers could only describe as tendencies. However, relatively few studies address treatment impacts on non-target species or determine how the silvicultural treatments affect a site's overall woody biomass production. Experimental silvicultural practices targeted in this study to improve white spruce survival had profound effects on other dominant upland tree species such as quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) and Alaska birch (Betula neoalaskana Sarg.). Interior Alaska timber species demonstrate different regeneration strategies to post-disturbance environmental conditions, especially residual organic soil layer thickness and spatial configuration of surviving potential seed sources. Effective silvicultural practices must consider each species' unique reproductive biology, and clonal sprouting as a source of aspen persistence was a particularly important example in our study. Site differences, such as we found between the slope and ridge landforms, are a key consideration for implementing effective silvicultural practices. Significant interactions between the regeneration treatments and landform types proved to be critical to meet specific reforestation objectives, particularly the different herbaceous vegetation cover types, presence/absence of aspen clonal rootstocks, and spatial configurations regarding seed sources. Managing mixed species stands, which are common in the lightly managed portions of the boreal forest, requires not only the consideration of the future crop tree, but the interacting effects of silvicultural practices on all tree species.
    • An approach to understanding community members' perceptions of climate change in three rural indigenous Mexican communities

      Kent, Tricia (2017-05)
      This case study describes an approach to understanding community members' perceptions of climate change in three rural indigenous communities in the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Seven participatory tools were applied to assess community members' experience of current climate change conditions, the challenges posed by changing conditions, and their communities' efforts to adapt. Tools, such as the Stratified Timeline, that provided community members time to work in groups and reflect on the questions they were asked allowed them to better express their knowledge of climate change than tools that isolated community members or used technical language such as the Pre and Post-Test. Although community members were generally aware of changes in their climate, they were unfamiliar with the concept of adaptation or of how certain activities could help them adapt. Through their responses to these seven tools, community members expressed their belief that the climate is in fact changing in their region of Oaxaca. The biggest concern in all three communities was the lack of seasonal rains, which was affecting their ability to farm and ensure food security. Some adaptations, provided through soil and water conservation projects, were being undertaken in the region through governmental entities such as the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve, but there is great need and much interest in having more of these types of projects implemented, to help communities adapt to climate change.
    • Arctic sea ice: satellite observations, global climate model performance, and future scenarios

      Rogers, Tracy S.; Rupp, Scott (2011-08)
      This thesis examined Arctic sea ice trends through observational records and model-derived scenarios. A regional analysis of Arctic sea ice observations 1980-2008 identified regional trends similar to the pan-Arctic. However, winter maximum (March) extent in the Atlantic quadrant declined faster. Through an analysis of Atlantic Ocean temperatures and Arctic winds, we concluded that melting sea ice extent may result in increased Atlantic Ocean temperatures, which feeds back to further reductions in Atlantic quadrant extent. Further, Arctic winds do not appear to drive Atlantic ice extent. We evaluated performance of 13 Global Climate Models, reviewing retrospective (1980-2008) sea ice simulations and used three metrics to compare with the observational record. We examined and ranked models at the pan-Arctic domain and regional quadrants, synthesizing model performance across several Arctic studies. The top performing models were able to better capture pan-Arctic trends and regional variability. Using the best performing models, we analyzed future sea ice projections across key access routes in the Arctic and found likely reduced ice coverage through 2100, allowing increasingly longer marine operations. This unique assessment found the Northwest and Northeast Passages to hold potential for future marine access to the Arctic, including shipping and resource development opportunities.
    • Are sustainable livelihoods critical to the success of community-based marine protected areas?

      Olivier, Nina A. (2018-05)
      Three community-based marine protected areas (CBMPAs) in the Visayas, Philippines were analyzed based on how well they incorporated sustainable livelihood programs into their overall management and planning for those displaced by the CBMPA. Through reviewing management plans and reports, the CBMPAs were then assessed to see whether including alternative livelihoods in these three cases was correlated with greater overall success. Each CBMPA was scored based on their alternative livelihoods and overall success. Management stakeholder perception surveys were also conducted for two of the CBMPA sites studied. Apo Island Marine Reserve scored the highest for its criteria for sustainable livelihood development and criteria for success of a CBMPA. Alternatively, Lawi Marine Reserve scored equivalent to that of Balcon Marine Protected Area for its criteria for sustainable livelihood development, yet the lowest for its criteria for success of a CBMPA. The most successful CBMPA was Apo Island Marine Reserve due to the incorporation of human dimensions into their management planning that helped them create sustainable livelihood programs that increased the community's compliance with the rules and regulations of the CBMPA. In contrast, Balcon Marine Protected Area and Lawi Marine Reserve did not have sustainable livelihood programs in place and their success was far below that of Apo Island. Thus, the overall success of these CBMPAs appears to be strongly correlated with alternative livelihood programs, however further study is needed to determine if this correlation between alternative livelihoods and success is true for the majority of CBMPAs in the Philippines.
    • Aspen coppice with coarse woody debris: a silvicultural system for interior Alaska moose browse production

      Nichols, Todd F. (2005-05)
      Browse production and use by moose (Alces alces gigas) in interior Alaska was investigated in 4 and 2-year-old quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) coppice stands following clear-felling without removal of the mature aspen stems. Moose winter browse utilization, as related to distance from cover, coarse woody debris (CWD), and browse species composition, was quantified. Aspen terminal leaders were sampled to relate current annual growth (CAG) dry biomass (g) to leader diameter (mm). Stem density, current annual browse production, and browse use were estimated. Browse use was determined as 1) proportion of aspen stems browsed (stand scale), 2) proportion of browsed leaders per stem (stem scale), and 3) diameter-at-point-of-browsing (leader scale). Aspen sucker density ranged from 23,000-43,000 stems/ha. Terminal leader diameter was found to be a good estimator of individual stem CAG biomass. CWD did not impede moose utilization of stems. Browse use declined from mature stand edge to center (100 m). Beyond 15 m from mature stand edge browse use was low compared to that within 15 m of the stand edge. Clear-felling without removal of stems is a viable silvicultural method to reinitiate seral aspen in lieu of prescribed fire or mechanical treatments on south-facing hillsides.
    • Assessing the generalizability of study results: an outdoor recreation application

      Taylor, Stephen C. (2005-12)
      Onsite surveys of visitors have become a common method of providing information regarding recreation area visitors' norms, attitudes, motivations, management preferences, etc. Study results are often implied to be representative of a future time period for management planning purposes. One enduring method is segmenting visitors based on motivations and examining preferences for management actions/settings by group. When such a study is directly intended to guide management actions, the 'groups' must offer some degree of insight into future visitors, i.e., generalize across time. Data gathered during 2004 at the Kennecott National Historic Landmark within Wrangell- St. Elias National Park and Preserve were used to establish a hypothesized relationship between motivations and preferences for management actions. The study was replicated in 2005 to assess the generalizability of the results. A K-means cluster analysis on visitor motivations revealed five unique groups of visitors (n=206). Each group was linked with preferences for six hypothetical management actions. Utilizing generalizability theory and cluster profiling, results suggest the same five visitor types were present at Kennecott in 2005 (n=198). Furthermore, five management options exhibited evidence of generalizability across time. Although the degree of preferences varied slightly over time, opinions towards the management options did not change.
    • Baseline data of bird populations in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico: a citizen science approach

      Anderson, Teresa S.; Fix, Peter J.; Carsten-Conner, Laura D.; Dalle-Molle, Lois K. (2017-12)
      This project tested the viability of converting a local environmental education group, "Eco Chavos" into a team of citizen scientists. In rural biosphere reserves in Mexico, with few resources and large resident populations, community-based biological inventory and monitoring has the potential to increase the impact of Mexican biosphere reserves by generating scientific information and engaging local residents in hands-on environmental education. To test this, I formed a citizen science birding group and trained them in bird identification, survey techniques, data collection, and data management. The project began in January 2016 and in December 2016 I stopped mentoring the program and let it continue under its own leadership. Our team was composed of an Eco Chavos group and a resident ornithologist who conducted land and water-based surveys multiple times a month. As of August 2017, 160 bird species have been registered, including three species endemic to Mexico; the Crimson-collared Grosbeak (Rhodothraupis celaeno), Blue Mockingbird (Melanotis caerulescens), and Spotted Wren (Campylorhynchus gularis). The survey provided an inventory of bird diversity in the reservoir, and could serve as a starting point to measure occurrence and abundance over time. The data were published in the updated management plan of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve as well as in a new bird book, Guía de Aves de la Presa Jalpan. A new community group, "Aves de la Presa Jalpan" was formed and contributed information via an online public database. The database may be used by the international network of bird monitors to analyze population trends in both local Mexican bird populations and in international bird migrations. In addition, participants showed increased bird identification skills, leadership, increased interest in birds, and engagement in project tasks and planning. Infrastructure was built to encourage birdwatching tourism in the Biosphere Reserve and the foundation was set to continue this research in the future.
    • Caribou migration, subsistence hunting, and user group conflicts in northwest Alaska: a traditional knowledge perspective

      Halas, Gabriela; Kofinas, Gary; Fix, Peter; Joly, Kyle (2015-08)
      Alaska Natives of northwest Alaska are highly dependent on barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus) for meeting their nutritional and cultural needs. The Alaska Native village of Noatak borders the Noatak National Preserve (NNP), an area historically and presently used by Iñupiaq for subsistence caribou hunting and other traditional activities. Interactions between local and non-local caribou hunters were analyzed through the lens of common pool resource theory, which I linked to traditional Iñupiaq management of access and use of resources. This study examined changes in caribou migration and its effect on local caribou hunting success, which have been perceived to be the result of the interaction with non-local hunters and commercial aircraft operators transporting non-locals. Past research, decades old at this point, was undertaken prior to some regulations in place today, such as zoned use areas. To understand the implications of these changes, I documented the perceptions of local hunters by drawing on their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), using a mixed methods approach to capture information on caribou ecology and human-caribou interactions. Mixed methods included a survey of active hunters, semi-structured participatory mapping interviews with local caribou experts of Noatak, key informant interviews, and participatory observation. Local hunters reported that caribou migration has changed, and there has been a decrease in the population of the region's caribou herd, the Western Arctic Herd (WAH). Hunters also reported that caribou hunting has changed substantially in the last five years, with fewer caribou harvested and hunters adapting to accommodate caribou migration shifts. Local hunters ranked aircraft and non-locals hunters as having the greatest negative impact to caribou migration and local hunting, followed by predation, climate change and habitat change. Noatak hunters perceived that their harvest of caribou is most impacted by non-local activity in the Noatak region. As well, local hunters reported that aircraft are a greater disturbance than on-the-ground non-local hunters. Participatory mapping revealed that use-areas are shared by local and non-local users along the Noatak River corridor, including both inside and outside zoned use areas. Suggestions by respondents for improved caribou management and conflicts with non-locals ranged from reducing non-local activity, working together with non-locals and aircraft operators, improving economic development for Noatak, and teaching youth of the village traditional hunting practices. Findings of this research demonstrate that local hunters have a rich, localized knowledge of human-caribou systems, which can contribute further to understanding of caribou-human interactions and in turn help to inform wildlife management decision-making.
    • Community relationships with traditional forests and their effects on long-term conservation: a case study from Kaboli, Togo

      Lynch, Lauren; Todd, Susan; Gasbarro, Tony; Kokou, Kouami (2017-05)
      Despite Togo's status as a low forest cover country, remnant forest patches play an important role in conserving biodiversity and ensuring the well-being of the country's human population. Most of these remnant forest patches are communal lands managed by local family groups, and many are sacred forests, or forests that have been protected due to their role in local religious systems. In recent years, these unique social-ecological systems have been threatened due to the degradation of traditional religion. In three manuscripts, this thesis presents a case study focusing on the social and ecological role of four community forests in and around Kaboli, Togo. The first manuscript compares the ecological value and level of degradation of sacred forests and other community forests based on measurements of tree cover within historic forest boundaries, vegetation composition, biodiversity, and biomass. The second uses focus group interviews to gain an understanding of the social and cultural factors contributing to forest degradation and conservation. Finally, the third manuscript focuses on the effects of westernization on relationships between forests and people in Kaboli. Factors identified as contributing to forest degradation include rapid population growth, overly restrictive government policies, poverty, local land use conflicts, and westernization. Early western influences during the years of the slave trade contributed to the formation of relationships between forests and people in Kaboli while later effects of conservation and development efforts (including religious, political, and economic changes) eroded traditional respect for sacred forests. Communities most successful in conserving their forests are those that have sacred sites within their forests and whose cultural connections to their forests are strongest. The evidence for this is that forests containing sacred sites were significantly less degraded than otherwise similar community forests that did not contain a sacred site, with a species composition more typical of endangered dry forest ecosystems, and higher tree cover, biomass and biodiversity. Communities whose forests contained sacred sites also identified more social and cultural values of community forests than those that did not. Thus, maintaining the traditional cultural connections to these forests might be the most effective way to conserve them.
    • Comparing Marine Mammal Co-Management Regimes In Alaska: Three Aspects Of Institutional Performance

      Meek, Chanda L. (2009)
      Arctic marine mammals and the communities that depend on them for subsistence are facing unprecedented rates of environmental change. Comparative studies of policy implementation are necessary in order to identify key mechanisms of successful environmental governance under challenging conditions. This study compares two federal agencies responsible for the conservation of Arctic marine mammals. Drawing on multiple methods, I develop in-depth case studies of the policy implementation process for managing bowhead whale and polar bear subsistence hunting. I examine how and why agency approaches to conservation differ and assess policy effectiveness. The analysis focuses on three aspects of institutional performance as drivers of policy outcomes: historical events, organizational culture, and structural relationships with stakeholders. The study begins by tracing the development of marine mammal management in Alaska through time. I find that definitions of subsistence developed under previous eras continue to shape debates over wildlife management in Alaska, confounding ecologically relevant policy reform. I next examine the roles of agency culture, policy history, and relationships with stakeholders in influencing how agencies implement contemporary harvest assessment programs. Findings suggest that the internal orientation of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service makes it more likely to retain control over management programs than the more externally oriented National Marine Fisheries Service. Furthermore, these policy approaches affect the development of social norms at the local level. Through a social network analysis, I demonstrate that the extent to which policy programs are integrated into the existing social networks of a village affects policy success. Hunter participation in and support for policies is stronger when there are local centers of coordination and meaningful policy deliberation. Finally, I assess existing policies regarding both species to examine whether or not contemporary policy approaches address key drivers of system change and provide effective feedback channels. Findings demonstrate that both agencies have focused on regulating harvests; I argue that in order to foster resilience of the system into the future, policy actors must reconfigure management approaches and policies towards the protection of functional seascapes. I propose two strategies in order to govern for recovery (polar bears) and resistance (bowhead whales).
    • Crop modeling to assess the impact of climate change on spring wheat growth in sub-Arctic Alaska

      Harvey, Stephen K.; Zhang, Mingchu; Karlsson, Meriam; Fochesatto, Gilberto (2019-05)
      In the sub-arctic region of Interior Alaska, warmer temperatures and a longer growing season caused by climate change could make spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) a more viable crop. In this study, a crop model was utilized to simulate the growth of spring wheat in future climate change scenarios RCP4.5 (medium-low emission) and RCP8.5 (high emission) of Fairbanks, Alaska. In order to fulfill such simulation, in 2018 high quality crop growth datasets were collected at the Fairbanks and Matanuska Valley Experiment Farms and along with historic variety trial data, the crop model was calibrated and validated for simulating days to maturity (emergence to physiological maturity) and yield of spring wheat in Fairbanks. In the Fairbanks 1989-2018 (baseline) climate, growing season (planting to physiological maturity) average temperature and total precipitation are 15.6° C and 122 mm, respectively. In RCP4.5 2020-2049 (2035s), 2050-2079 (2065s), and 2080-2099 (2090s) projected growing season average temperature and total precipitation are 16.7° C, 17.4° C, 17.8° C and 120 mm, 112 mm, 112 mm, respectively. In RCP8.5 2035s, 2065s, and 2090s projected growing season average temperature and total precipitation are 16.8° C, 18.5° C, 19.5° C and 120 mm, 113 mm, 117 mm, respectively. Using Ingal, an Alaskan spring wheat, the model simulated days to maturity and yield in baseline and projected climate scenarios of Fairbanks, Alaska. Baseline days to maturity were 69 and yield was 1991 kg ha-1. In RCP4.5 2035s, 2065s, and 2090s days to maturity decreased to 64, 62, 60 days, respectively, and yield decreased 2%, 6%, 8%, respectively. In RCP8.5 2035s, 2065s, and 2090s days to maturity decreased to 64, 58, 55 days, respectively, and yield decreased 1%, 3%, then increased 1%, respectively. Adaptation by cultivar modification to have a growing degree day requirement of 68 days to maturity in RCP4.5 2035s and RCP8.5 2035s resulted in increased yields of 4% and 5%, respectively. Climatic parameters of temperature and precipitation per growing season day are projected to become more favorable to the growth of spring wheat. However, precipitation deficit, an indicator of water stress was found to stay similar to the baseline climate. Without adaption, days to maturity and yield are projected to decrease. Selection and/or breeding of spring wheat varieties to maintain baseline days to maturity are a priority to materialize yield increases in the area of Fairbanks, Alaska.
    • Developing communication tools for resource management in western Alaska: an evaluation of the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative coastal projects database

      Warner, Nicole; Trainor, Sarah; Greenburg, Joshua; Fix, Peter (2017)
      Science communication is an essential component in decision-making for resource management in Alaska. This field aids in bridging knowledge gaps between scientists and diverse stakeholders. In 2014, the Western Alaska LCC developed a database cataloging the current coastal change projects in order to facilitate collaboration amongst researchers, managers, and the surrounding communities. In order to better inform similar outreach projects in other LCC regions, this MNRM project entailed an evaluation of this database between April and September 2016 and comprised a ten-question phone interview with the database participants and other involved personnel. Results from this evaluation can help refine the database to better suit its users' needs in the future, and it can also inform the creation of similar tools in other LCC regions. This project evaluated the use and usability of the Western Alaska LCC Coastal Change Database. First, I review coastal change and its impacts on Western Alaska. Next, I explore how institutions can respond to these changes and what resources they can use, including decision-support tools. I then provide examples of different decision-support tools (both in academic literature and in Alaskan projects) and discuss methodologies for evaluating their use. Interview results are then reported. The evaluation of the WALCC Coastal Change Database indicated that the tool was mostly used to enhance general understanding of the research occurring in the region. Respondents were less likely to use it for time-intensive tasks such as collaboration. Respondents also indicated that a place exists for tools like this database to flourish, but they need 1) persistent outreach, 2) a dynamic design, and 3) immediate benefits for users' time. In the future, regular updates and frequent outreach could improve the database's usability and help maintain its credibility.
    • Development and implementation of an elementary place-based science curriculum for the Yakutat School District

      Liben, Sarah; Todd, Susan; Conner, Laura; Ramos, Judith; Taras, Mike; Fabbri, Cindy (2017-05)
      The need for citizens with a fundamental knowledge of science who understand the interconnections between living things as well as the impact of science on society is more important than ever. To achieve this goal, studies show that major changes to the structure of science curriculum must be made in order to incorporate all aspects of: 1) inquiry-based instruction; 2) strategies that elicit students' prior knowledge; 3) building conceptual understandings; and 4) integrating an ongoing assessment process that provides feedback to students and informs instruction. These suggested changes are articulated in the recent Next Generation Science Standards. In order to construct an elementary science curriculum for the Yakutat School District, I utilized the Understanding by Design (UBD) framework to develop individual "investigations" that were formulated around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). A place-based framework was constructed for each investigation using the GRASPS Performance Assessment model and Learning A-Z place-based instructional process. Existing lessons and activities that aligned with the NGSS and place-based framework were included in each investigation, and where there were gaps in addressing the standards, I utilized the BSCS (Biological Science Curriculum Studies) 5Es Learning Model to write a series of lessons for each investigation. Ultimately, I developed two curricula for the following grade levels: K-2 and 5-6. Curricula were divided into overarching units that contained between 1-5 investigations, or subunits, each of which were framed around 1-3 NGSS. This project's practical importance was to provide a curriculum for a school district that had no preexisting science curriculum. This curriculum is important to the field of science education, as it serves as a model that integrates western science and traditional knowledge in the context of the Next Generation Science Standards.
    • The effects of freezing and storage time on the quality of reindeer meat

      Aguiar, George A.; Finstad, Gregory L.; Bechtel, Peter J.; Wiklund, Eva (2017-08)
      Restaurants, wholesalers and retailers of fresh meat require a year round consistent supply of uniform quality product to sustain demand and justify niche market costs such as advertisement and stocking product. Frozen reindeer meat could be stored, short or long term to increase availability provided there are no adverse effects of freezing. No studies to date have evaluated the effects of freezing and storage time on reindeer meat quality. Nine reindeer steers (castrated bulls; age 2.5 years) were fed a balanced milled ration at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Reindeer Research Program (RRP) facility at the Agricultural Forestry Experiment Station (AFES). In February, animals were transported to a USDA approved meat processing facility for slaughter where both striploins (M. longissimus dorsi) were removed from the carcasses. The striploin samples were allocated to four subsamples consisting of fresh (control), freshly frozen, 6 month frozen and 12 month frozen treatment groups to determine if freezing and frozen storage of reindeer meat for up to one year effects meat quality. All samples underwent shear force measurement, water holding capacity (WHC) determination, proximate analysis, sensory evaluation, TBARS (rancidity) and fatty acid methyl ester profile (FAMES) analysis. Meat was sampled after 6 months of frozen storage for amino acid and mineral analysis. Shear force values were not significantly different amongst treatment groups fresh to 12 month (P=0.992). Purge and cooking loss variation were significant between fresh and 12 months (P = 1e-05,1e-04). There was no significant difference from fresh to 12 month in moisture, ash and protein content while lipid content variation was significantly different (P = 0.99, 1.00, 1.00 and < 1e -6 respectively). Tenderness and juiciness attributes were not significantly different among treatment groups fresh and 12 month (P=0.91 and P=0.53); however, an off flavor attribute was significantly different (P=0.005) amongst treatment groups suggesting that off flavor diminishes with freezing. While not detected in sensory evaluation, mean TBARS (rancidity) values increased significantly (P = <.1e-04) between fresh and 12 months. Characterization of reindeer muscle indicated that the amino acid profile and selected mineral were consistent with that of a high quality nutritional meat product. Omega 3 fatty acid (W3), Omega 6 fatty acid (W6), Monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), the ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6 (W3/W6) and the ratio between PUFA and MUFA (PS) were not significantly different while Saturated fatty acid (SAFA) was significantly different amongst treatments groups from fresh to 12 months. (P= 0.35, 1.00, 0.96, 0.12, 1.00, 0.14 and 0.03). Results of this study suggest reindeer meat can be frozen for up to a year without compromising quality. This could facilitate the marketing flexibility for the reindeer industry to be able to provide a consistent supply of product year round to niche restaurants and wholesalers while commanding a premium price.
    • Evapotranspiration in a subarctic agroecosystem: field measurements, modeling and sustainability perspectives

      Ruairuen, Watcharee; Sparrow, Elena Bautista; Fochesatto, Gilberto Javier; Zhang, Mingchu; Schnabel, William (2015-05)
      Northern latitudes are known to be the most vulnerable regions already witnessing the impacts of climate change. These impacts have not only affected a broad spectrum of ecological conditions but also physical and socio-economic functions and activities across the region. Uncertainties in climate change and its progression exposes agroecosystem development and sustainability to a great risk. Yet, not fully understood, climate feedbacks and influencing factors such as human population growth and consumption imposes economical and financial stress in the sustainability of agroecosystem activities. On the opposite direction, trends in this activity can drive regional modifications to climate to an extent that is still unknown and not yet forecasted. Over time, as the acreages of agricultural lands increase from conversion of natural lands such as boreal forests, unexpected changes in surface energetics and particularly overturning of evapotranspiration rates and changes in soil moisture regime may potentially accentuate regional climate change. These changes therefore are expected to introduce new challenges for Alaskan agriculturists because of increasing vulnerabilities and affecting conditions that shape resilience of agricultural systems and production. This research focused on improving understanding of surface energetics in an agroecosystem of Interior Alaska. A synthesis study was conducted combining the analysis of intensive field experiments including direct measurements of micrometeorological, hydrological, meteorological variables and computational modelling during the summer growing season. The evaluation of evapotranspiration (ET) dynamical regime and surface energy processes showed that ET represented a large portion of surface energy balance with similar aspects to surface fluxing levels in Arctic tundra, and in contrast, with more abundant flux levels than in subarctic boreal forest. Surface heterogeneities due to soil moisture and temperature regime drive differences in energy balance closure as a function of spatial scales despite the mostly flat surfaces and stationary atmospheric surface layer flows in the experimental area. A fully coupled numerical simulation was performed to model fluxes at the land-atmosphere interface and compared to independent observations of surface energy. A final assessment of experimental methodologies and numerical modeling is presented in preparation for integrative data fusion analysis and studies involving new satellite remote sensing capabilities, physical modeling and network field observations.
    • Exploring the relationship between forest resource users and their disappearing forest: what do rural Gambians think are the causes and solutions for deforestation?

      Harris, Samantha; Todd, Susan; Gasbarro, Tony; Seefeldt, Steven (2017-06)
      This is a case study of a small rural community in The Gambia where I was a Peace Corps volunteer for 27 months. The savannah woodland there is classified as a dry tropical forest and like many such areas in the Sahel, the population is growing rapidly. During my time there, I observed a great dependence on local forests but no apparent management. One man told me, "If all the trees perish, then we will all perish." Given this level of dependence, I was surprised to see little evidence that they were planting trees or taking other measures to protect the forest. I wanted to find out just how dependent people were on the forest and whether they saw deforestation as a problem. If they saw it as a problem, what did they feel were the causes of it and what did they think would solve it? Since I was living in the area, I was able to use participant observation as a method in my research. I also used semi-structured interviews of key informants and focus group interviews in five communities that were located close together. I found that the people are extremely dependent on the local forest for firewood, lumber for houses and fences, foods like baobab and mangoes, and herbs for medicines (they had limited access to commercial medicines). This dependence places them in a precarious situation as rural poverty and food insecurity forces farmers to expand their agricultural fields at the expense of the forests. Everyone saw deforestation as a problem and noted that they have to walk farther to gather firewood and that the forest was once thick with trees and wild animals, but now "many trees have perished" and there are few animals. They saw population growth as the primary cause of deforestation, because that forces them to clear trees to make room to grow more crops. They also mentioned illegal logging, drought and bushfires as problems for the forest. They viewed tree planting as the primary solution and would like to plant trees near their homes where they could protect them, but there are a host of challenges to growing seedlings in this region. The biggest problems are watering the seedlings, as that requires carrying many gallons of water to each seedling on a daily basis, and protecting young trees from termites as well as goats and other animals. They would like to have more support from the Gambian government to teach them better ways to plant and grow trees, to learn more about manure and other ways to improve soil fertility, to help them pay for good fences, and to combat bushfires. There are many studies regarding tree planting, but few of them address the cultural perspective of forest use and management in the way this study does. These people face a life-threatening dilemma in trying to solve the problem of deforestation. They have had little success planting trees and will face serious shortages of essential items like firewood, lumber, medicines and food if the problem continues. They do not have the income to buy these goods. I hope this study will contribute to understanding the complexity of the situation, which in turn should assist NGOs and others to develop workable solutions to the problem of deforestation in this and other dry tropical forests of the Sahel.
    • Factors contributing to the participation of organizations in a voluntary environmental program: the case of Green Star, Anchorage, Alaska

      Doherty-Guzzetti, Jean M. (2007-05)
      Green certification programs are intended to encourage sustainability by assisting organizations with environmental efforts and publicly recognizing those efforts. This study examined the characteristics and goals of organizations participating in Anchorage, Alaska's green certification program, Green Star. Green Star has approximately 250 members, including privately owned businesses, schools, non-profits, and government agencies. To earn the Green Star Award, organizations were required to meet twelve of eighteen environmental standards. Using a mail-out questionnaire, this research explored whether member characteristics, such as number of employees or ownership structure, were related to the number of environmental standards a participating organization completed. Using four indicators, a goal profile determined if organizations seek environmental improvements, economic improvements, or image improvements. Interviews provided insight into the motivations for participation. Overall, members appeared to participate in Green Star to improve their environmental performance more than economic performance. The Anchorage Green Star program functioned as a guide for organizations to initiate changes in environmental behavior that otherwise would not occur. Conclusions from results are presented in six recommendations to improve the efficacy of green certification programs.
    • Factors influencing the timing and frequency of moose-vehicle collisions at urban-wildland interfaces in subarctic Alaska

      Noordeloos, Jacobus Cornelis; Mann, Daniel H.; Verbyla, David L.; Kielland, Knut; de Wit, Cary W. (2016-12)
      Wildlife-vehicle collisions concern road engineers, wildlife biologists, and the motoring public. In Alaska, moose-vehicle collisions (MVCs) are the most commonly reported type of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Each year an average of 101 MVCs were reported in the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB), resulting in damages amounting to $3,000,000/yr. This thesis describes the spatial and temporal patterns of MVCs in the FNSB and uses these patterns to infer the interactions between human and moose behavior that cause them. The analytical approach used combined spatial and temporal records of MVCs collected by the Alaska Department of Transportation with spatially explicit data describing topography, land cover, traffic volume, and traffic speed. Multiple hypotheses about cause and effect were tested using computer-intensive, randomization procedures. MVCs occur most frequently during the first hours after sunset, particularly in autumn and winter. Roads in the vicinity of areas of recent wildland fires have a heightened risk of MVCs, particularly if there are moderate traffic volumes and speed limits of 90 km/h (55 mph). MVCs are also frequent on roads traversing land cover types where human population densities are low. Risk of MVCs in the FNSB is highest between 150 m and 200 m elevation. Based on these results, several mitigation measures to reduce MVCs in the FNSB are recommended, including seasonal warning signage and speed reductions in the hours after sunset. Roadside fencing designed to divert moose to designated road crossings in conjunction with infrared-triggered warning lights at these crossing points may be warranted in areas identified as hotspot locations for MVCs.
    • A farmers guide to evaluate soil health using physical, chemical, and biological indicators on an agricultural field in Alaska

      Cole, Cory J.; Zhang, Mingchu; Matney, Casey; Karlsson, Meriam (2018-12)
      Farmers across Alaska face many challenges. These challenges include climate extremes, wind and water erosion, weed pressure, crop pests, and nutrient-poor soils. Cover crops, crop rotation, crop residue, and tillage management are common conservation practices used to address soil related resource concerns. Research in the continental United States has shown that these soil conservation practices improve soil health. Resource managers are trying to determine the usefulness of soil health indicators to assess conservation practices in Alaska. The objective of this project was to provide Alaskan farmers, conservation planners, and land managers with a background on soil health, soil health indicators, soil health assessments, and the use of conservation practices to improve soil health. Establishing linkages between soil conservation practices and soil health indicators will allow individuals to focus conservation efforts on improving soil conditions, evaluate soil management practices and techniques over time to determine trends, make qualitative comparisons of soil health among management systems, and provide tested measures of soil health (indicators) that will allow farmers and land managers to make more informed resource decisions. Numerous studies were conducted across Alaska to gauge the success of cover cropping, crop rotation, and reduced tillage (no-till). Improvements in physical, chemical, and biological indicators were documented. After one year of study, most cover crops resulted in lower bulk density at the soil surface compared to conventional tillage. Among the cover crop treatments, the perennial forage grass Timothy (Phleum pratense var. Engmo) ranked highest in soil organic matter, soil water content, and improvement to the soil structure. Preliminary data from this project has been gathered to develop an Alaska specific Soil Health Assessment Card and supplementary User Guide.
    • Forest biometrics and quantitative analysis of forested ecoystems in coastal Alaska

      Peterson, Randy Louis; Verbyla, David; Liang, Jingjing; Barrett, Tara; Greenberg, Joshua (2014-08)
      Growth and yield models are a mainstay of forestry research and a necessary tool in the forest management decision process. Growth and yield models predict forest population dynamics over time and are an invaluable resource to forest managers making harvest and utilization decisions. At present, there are only a few growth models available for Alaska's coastal forests, all of which are either calibrated with even-aged data or outdated. Yield tables and growth models developed with even-aged data can be useful in even-aged management applications such as clear-cuts; however, these models are not able to predict the outcomes of uneven-aged silvicutural systems. The objective of this thesis is the development of a growth and yield model for coastal Alaska and computer applications to facilitate its use. A density-dependent, distance-independent, size- and species-specific matrix forest growth and yield model is calibrated with data collected on permanent sample plots located throughout coastal Alaska. The resulting growth and yield model enables short- and long-term predictions of stand basal area, volume, and biomass. Model assessment, with a focus on plausibility and accuracy, is evaluated on an independent dataset. Two computer programs (AlaskaPro and fgmod) are developed in conjunction with the new model. These programs can be used by forest researchers and land managers to compare the outcomes of various silvicultural prescriptions.