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ISU-Boise professor studies Idaho’s declining aspen groves

December 19, 2008
ISU Marketing and Communications

An Idaho State University-Boise geosciences researcher has secured funding to study the decline of quaking aspen trees in southeast Idaho.

Assistant research professor, Temuulen Sankey, Ph.D., has received a $9,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service and Southeast Idaho Aspen Working Group to study aspen groves in a portion of the massive Caribou-Targhee National Forest near Driggs.

Temuulen SankeyIt’s an important issue, Sankey explains, because the groves provide vital habitat for elk and deer and help maintain the herd population. In fall, the trees’ shimmering gold leaves and vivid colors are a boon to the state’s tourism industry.

For decades, scientists and researchers have documented declining aspen populations in Yellowstone National Park and the Rocky Mountain West. Researchers say much of the decline is due to fire-suppression policies that have prevented aspen seedlings from establishing, allowing heartier conifers to thrive.

“Fire stimulates the sprouting of aspen seedlings which keeps conifers – shrubs and evergreens– from overtaking the grove,” says Sankey.

Despite the vast body of scientific literature chronicling the decline of aspen trees in North America, Sankey says little quantitative research has been done about the severity of the problem in Idaho. Once she completes her research in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, she’d like to study aspen groves in the Owyhee Mountains of southwest Idaho.

Sankey hopes her research will help federal and state agencies tailor land-use policies to fit the specific needs of areas facing aspen decline.


For more information, contact Sankey at 208-345-8329.


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