Historical Legacies: Examining past climate change and disturbance regimes in Montana to better understand the future

2012 to 2017

Montana’s ecosystems have a long history of droughts, floods, fire and other natural disturbances, and the frequency and severity of such events in the past have been strongly governed by variations in climate.  The legacy of past disturbances contributes to the present structure, dynamics and composition of ecosystems and affects their vulnerability to changes in natural and human-driven disturbance in the future.  The Historical Legacies group is a multi-institutional partnership that uses paleoenvironmental information preserved in tree rings, lake-sediments, archeological and other records to reconstruct climate, vegetation and disturbance history.  These reconstructions provide a historical baseline for evaluating species and ecosystem resilience at present and information for guiding decisions aimed at preserving critical ecosystems services. With funding from the EPSCoR Track 1 RII grant, this group is working in four areas: (1) the creation of a paleoenvironmental database, in collaboration with the North Central Climate Science Center; (2) a close examination of whitebark pine vulnerability in the GYE; (3) new paleoenvironment information from unstudied mountain ranges in Montana, including the Bridger Ranger, the Mission Range, and the Little Belts; and (4) a study of long-term use of fire by Native Americans as it compares to other regions, co-supported with the NSF WildFIRE PIRE grant.   

As part of the project in partnership with the USGS North Central Climate Science Center, the team has develoepd a regional Paleodatabase:  http://www.nccscpaleoenvironmentaldatabase.com


MSU IoE Office

Montana State University
605 Leon Johnson Hall
Bozeman, MT 59717
(406) 994-2374
MSU Director: Bruce Maxwell

UM IoE Office

The Universityi of Montana

The University of Montana
Davidson Honors College
Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-6058
UM Director: Maury Valett


Montana University System

Montana University System

Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
2500 Broadway Street
Helena, MT 59620