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Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research Site

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The Bonanza Creek (BNZ) LTER: Regional Consequences of Changing Climate-Disturbance Interactions for the Resilience of Alaska's Boreal Forest  (University of Alaska Fairbanks Campus)

Research Focus 

The Bonanza Creek (BNZ) Long-Term Ecological Research program focuses on improving our understanding of the long-term consequences of changing climate and disturbance regimes in the Alaskan boreal forest.

The central question of research at BNZ LTER asks how boreal ecosystems respond, both gradually and abruptly, to climate warming, and what new landscape patterns are emerging. The overall objective is to identify factors that make ecosystems resilient versus factors that make them vulnerable. 

It is research site is in the boreal forest of interior Alaska, and its facilities are in Fairbanks.

Research Outcomes

Adapting to Change: Understanding gained through long-term research at BNZ suggests that traditional knowledge and ways of life will be important means by which Alaskan indigenous communities will adapt to changes in climate and fire regimes.

Browse Control: For more than 20 years, BNZ scientists have studied the hidden impact of browsing on ecosystems by conducting experiments that exclude moose and snowshoe hare from large areas. Results show that browsing controls which plant species dominate, how large some trees grow, and how rapidly nutrients cycle through the ecosystem.

Fire and Climate: Through long-term studies of fire cycles and their links to climate, BNZ scientists have documented an increase in fire severity brought on by climate warming that will likely shift the Alaskan boreal forest from a landscape dominated by spruce to one dominated by broadleaf trees.

Education & Outreach

Education and outreach efforts at BNZ LTER encompass the academic community, students of all ages as well as the general public. The Weed Wackers program was designed to promote awareness and research involving invasive plant species through hands-on activities and participation in research. Mentorship programs include an Alaska high school research internship program. LTER scientists make classroom visits, mentor students in their science fair or other research projects. In a GK-12 Teaching Alaskans Sharing Knowledge program, LTER grad students share their science expertise with the teachers while learning how to communicate their science to diverse audiences by co-teaching in the classrooms.

Images (1 of )

  • scientist releasing rabbit into forest
  • moose standing in grove of snow-covered trees
  • snowy landscape
Since 1999 scientists have monitored populations of snowshoe hares in the BNZ LTER site.
Bonanza Creek LTER
Moose are commonly encountered by BNZ research personnel during winter.
K. Kielland
Changes in the duration of the snow season represent a strong positive feedback to climate warming due to the contrast in surface reflectivity between snow- covered and snow-free ground.
E. Euskirchen.