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The Past and Future of Colorado’s Forests: Connecting People and Ecology

Dan Binkley, Warner College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University
Sally L. Duncan, Oregon State University


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The future composition, structure, and dynamics of forests in Colorado will develop in response to both ecological and social factors. Key ecological factors that shaped forests in the past included a great diversity of climatic conditions that results from complex topography and a broad range of elevations, as well as legacies of long-term climate changes and responses of plant and animal species. The influence of direct and indirect human impacts has steadily increased over the past two centuries, changing most forests. A workshop examined how goals of sustaining ecosystems and biodiversity will depend on a confluence of ecological and social changes. Key themes from the workshop included an acknowledgment that the sheer complexity of factors and interactions will limit our ability to shape the future, and that effective combinations of ecology and societies will depend in large part on the use of creative narratives that allow us to communicate productively among people with incredibly different knowledge and perspectives. These insights from Colorado’s forest landscapes and communities will likely resonate with other regions.

Key words

forest landscape dynamics; historical range of variation; natural range of variation

Copyright © 2009 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087