Seth Munson

Seth Munson
United States Geological Survey | USGS

PhD

About

109
Publications
26,234
Reads
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2,525
Citations
Citations since 2016
71 Research Items
2091 Citations
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Introduction
Seth Munson is an ecologist with the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. His research focuses on plant-soil interactions in dryland ecosystems and how these interactions are affected by climate and land use changes. Much of his research aims to understand the dynamics of dryland ecosystems at long temporal and broad spatial scales, which employs a multidisciplinary approach.
Skills and Expertise
Additional affiliations
December 2008 - present
United States Geological Survey
Position
  • Research Ecologist
Description
  • Seth's research focuses on plant-soil interactions in dryland ecosystems and how these interactions are affected by climate and land use changes.
May 2004 - December 2008
Colorado State University
Position
  • Research Assistant

Publications

Publications (109)
Article
Grazing represents the most extensive use of land worldwide. Yet its impacts on ecosystem services remain uncertain because pervasive interactions between grazing pressure, climate, soil properties, and biodiversity may occur but have never been addressed simultaneously. Using a standardized survey at 98 sites across six continents, we show that in...
Article
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Drylands represent more than 41% of the global land surface and are at degradation risk due to land use and climate change. Developing strategies to mitigate degradation and restore drylands in the face of these threats requires an understanding of how drylands are shaped by not only soils and climate, but also geology and geomorphology. However, f...
Article
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Context Wildlife avoid human disturbances, including roads and development. Avoidance and displacement of wildlife into less suitable habitat due to human development can affect their energy expenditures and fitness. The heart rate and oxygen uptake of large mammals varies with both natural aspects of their habitat (terrain, climate, predators, etc...
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Extreme climatic events are likely to intensify under climate change and can have different effects on ecosystems depending on their timing and magnitude. Understanding how productivity responds to extreme precipitation patterns requires assessing stability and vulnerability during critical growing periods at the plant community level. In this stud...
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Land degradation can result in a loss of critical ecosystem services that we often seek to restore through re‐establishment of desired plant communities. Trait‐based approaches have the potential to target specific ecosystem services based on associations between the functional composition of plant communities and ecosystem properties that serve as...
Article
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Primary production in dryland ecosystems is limited by water availability and projected to be strongly affected by future shifts in seasonal precipitation. Warm‐season precipitation derived from the North American Monsoon contributes 40% of annual precipitation to dryland ecosystems in the southwestern U.S. and is projected to become more variable....
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The southwestern U.S. is a global hotspot of climate change. Models project that temperatures will continue to rise through the end of the 21st century, accompanied by significant changes to the hydrological cycle. Within the Sonoran Desert, a limited number of studies have documented climate change impacts on the phenology of native plant species....
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The match between species trait values and local abiotic filters can restrict community membership. An often‐implicit assumption of this relationship is that abiotic filters select for a single locally optimal strategy, though difficulty in isolating effects of the abiotic environment from those of dispersal limitation and biotic interactions has r...
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The spread of flammable invasive grasses, woody plant encroachment, and enhanced aridity have interacted in many grasslands globally to increase wildfire activity and risk to valued assets. Annual variation in the abundance and distribution of fine-fuel present challenges to land managers implementing prescribed burns and mitigating wildfire, altho...
Article
Extreme drought can strongly impact belowground communities and biogeochemical processes, including soil microbial community composition and extracellular enzyme activities (EEAs), which are considered key agents in ecosystem carbon (C) and nutrient cycling. However, our understanding of how seasonal timing of drought during the growing season affe...
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Drylands are highly vulnerable to land degradation, and despite increasing efforts, restoration success remains low. Although often ignored in the design and deployment of management strategies, soil microbial communities might be critical for dryland restoration due to their central role in promoting soil stability, nutrient cycling, and plant est...
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Restoration of degraded drylands is urgently needed to mitigate climate change, reverse desertification and secure livelihoods for the two billion people who live in these areas. Bold global targets have been set for dryland restoration to restore millions of hectares of degraded land. These targets have been questioned as overly ambitious, but wit...
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Two related concepts in restoration ecology include the relative interchangeability of biotic and abiotic restoration treatments for initiating recovery and bet hedging using multiple restoration approaches to increase the likelihood of favorable restoration outcomes. We used these concepts as a framework to implement a factorial experiment includi...
Article
A full list of affiliations appears at the end of the paper. R estoration ecology is rapidly advancing in response to the ever-expanding global decline in ecosystem integrity and its associated socioeconomic repercussions 1-4. Nowhere are these dynamics more evident than in drylands, which help sustain 39% of the world's human population 5 but rema...
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Characterizing variation in plant functional traits is often key to understanding community level processes and predicting ecosystem responses to environmental change. Trait‐based ecology has focused on interspecific trait variation, but sources and consequences of within‐species ontogenetic trait variation, particularly during early stages of deve...
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Droughts have increased globally in the twenty-first century and are expected to become more extreme and widespread in the future. Assessments of how drought affects plants and ecosystems lack consistency in scope and methodology, confounding efforts to mechanistically interpret structural and functional impacts and predict future transformations u...
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The Colorado River Basin (CRB) includes seven states and provides municipal and industrial water to millions of people across all major southwestern cities both inside and outside the basin. Agriculture is the largest part of the CRB economy and crop production depends on irrigation, which accounts for about 74% of the total water demand cross the...
Article
Managing climate impacts to natural resources in protected areas can be hampered by lack of monitoring data, poor understanding of natural resource responses to climate, or lack of timely condition assessments that can inform management actions. Here we demonstrate the utility of water balance as a tool for understanding natural resource responses...
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Managing climate impacts to natural resources in protected areas can be hampered by lack of monitoring data, poor understanding of natural resource responses to climate, or lack of timely condition assessments that can inform management actions. Here we demonstrate the utility of water balance as a tool for understanding natural resource responses...
Article
Theoretical models suggest that ecosystems can be found in one of several possible alternative stable states, and a shift in structural stable state (SSS) can trigger a change in functional stable state (FSS). But we still lack the empirical evidence to confirm these states and transitions, and to inform the rates of change. Here, a 30-yr dataset f...
Preprint
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Drylands are Earth’s largest terrestrial biome and support one third of the global population. However, they are also highly vulnerable to land degradation. Despite widespread demand for dryland restoration and rehabilitation, little information is available to help land managers effectively reestablish native perennial vegetation across drylands....
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Abstract 1. Drylands are Earth's largest terrestrial biome and support one-third of the global population. However, they are also highly vulnerable to land degradation. Despite widespread demand for dryland restoration and rehabilitation, little information is available to help land managers effectively re-establish native perennial vegeta- tion ac...
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Transitions to terrestrial ecosystems attributable to land cover and land use change (LCLUC) and climate change can affect the climate at local to regional scales. However, conclusions from most previous studies do not provide information about local climate effects, and little research has directly quantified how LCLUC intensity within different e...
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Light‐absorbing particles in atmospheric dust deposited on snow cover (dust‐on‐snow, DOS) diminish albedo and accelerate the timing and rate of snow melt. Identification of these particles and their effects is relevant to snow‐radiation modeling and water‐resource management. Laboratory‐measured reflectance of DOS samples from the San Juan Mountain...
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Restoration and rehabilitation are globally implemented to improve ecosystem condition but often without tracking treatment expenditures relative to ecological outcomes. We evaluated the cost‐effectiveness of widely‐conducted woody plant and herbaceous invasive plant removals and seeding treatments in drylands of the western USA from 2004 – 2018 to...
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The challenges of restoration in dryland ecosystems are growing due to a rise in anthropogenic disturbance and increasing aridity. Plant functional traits are often used to predict plant performance and can offer a window into potential outcomes of restoration efforts across environmental gradients. We analyzed a database including 15 years of seed...
Article
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Pinyon-juniper (PJ) plant communities cover a large area across North America and provide critical habitat for wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystem functions, and rich cultural resources. These communities occur across a variety of environmental gradients, disturbance regimes, structural conditions and species compositions, including three species...
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The ecosystems along the border between the United States and Mexico are at increasing risk to wildfire due to interactions among climate, land-use, and fuel loads. A wide range of fuel treatments have been implemented to mitigate wildfire and its threats to valued resources, yet we have little information about treatment effectiveness. To fill cri...
Article
Climate variability and change acting at broad scales can lead to divergent changes in plant production at local scales. Quantifying how production responds to variation in climate at local scales is essential to understand underlying ecological processes and inform land management decision-making, but has historically been limited in spatiotempora...
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The sensitivity of plant production to precipitation underlies the functioning of ecosystems. Studies that relate long-term mean annual precipitation and production across multiple sites (spatial relationship) or examine interannual linkages within a site (temporal relationship) can reveal biophysical controls over ecosystem function but have limit...
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Context Exotic annual grasses are transforming native arid and semi-arid ecosystems globally by accelerating fire cycles that drive vegetation state changes. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), a particularly widespread and aggressive exotic annual grass, is a key management target in national parks of the western United States due to its impacts on wild...
Book
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The Science Framework is intended to link the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy with long-term strategic conservation and restoration actions in the sagebrush biome. The focus is on sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems and sagebrush dependent species with an emphasis on Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus uro...
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Abstract Methods to detect and monitor the spread of invasive grasses are critical to avoid ecosystem transformations and large economic costs. The rapid spread of non‐native buffelgrass(Pennisetum ciliare) has intensified fire risk and is replacing fire intolerant native vegetation in the Sonoran Desert of the southwestern US. Coarse‐resolution sa...
Article
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Land managers frequently apply vegetation removal and seeding treatments to restore ecosystem function following woody plant encroachment, invasive species spread, and wildfire. However, the long‐term outcome of these treatments is unclear due to a lack of widespread monitoring. We quantified how vegetation removal (via wildfire or management) with...
Article
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Ecosystems in the southwestern U.S. are predicted to experience continued warming and drying trends of the early twenty-first century. Climate change can shift the balance between grass and woody plant abundance in these water-limited systems, which has large implications for biodiversity and ecosystem processes. However, variability in topo-edaphi...
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Aims Understanding the conditions associated with dryland vegetation recovery after restoration treatments is challenging due to a lack of monitoring data and high environmental variability over time and space. Tracking recovery trajectories with satellite‐based vegetation indices can strengthen predictions of restoration outcomes across broad area...
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The Colorado Plateau is one of North America's five major deserts, encompassing 340,000 km² of the western U.S., and offering many opportunities for restoration relevant to researchers and land managers in drylands around the globe. The Colorado Plateau is comprised of vast tracts of public land managed by local, state, and federal agencies that ov...
Presentation
Background/Question/Methods Early season invasives transform native arid and semi-arid biological communities decreasing biodiversity while increasing likelihood of catastrophic fires. Landscape and climate influence spatiotemporal variation in the establishment and spread of invasive annuals. The aggressive invasive annual cheatgrass (Bromus tecto...
Article
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1.A recent drying trend that is expected to continue in the southwestern U.S. underscores the need for site‐specific and near real‐time understanding of vegetation vulnerability so that land management actions can be implemented at the right time and place. 2.We related the annual integrated normalized difference vegetation index (iNDVI), a proxy f...
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The Paria Plateau is a potentially important but relatively unstudied aeolian sand source area in the Grand Canyon region of Arizona, USA. This study used unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) - based LiDAR and structure-from-motion (SfM) photogrammetry to produce high-resolution topographic models of aeolian dunes on the plateau. We combined the dune topo...
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Prolonged shifts in long‐term average climate conditions and increasing variability in short‐term weather conditions affect ecological processes, and represent a fundamental challenge for natural resource management. Recent and forthcoming advances in climate predictability may offer novel opportunities, but capitalizing on these opportunities will...
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Water relations in plant communities are influenced both by contrasting functional groups (grasses, shrubs) and by climate change via complex effects on interception, uptake and transpiration. We modelled the effects of functional group replacement and biomass increase, both of which can be outcomes of invasion and vegetation management, and climat...
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The distribution of rainfed agriculture, which accounts for approximately ¾ of global croplands, is expected to respond to climate change and human population growth and these responses may be especially pronounced in water limited areas. Because the environmental conditions that support rainfed agriculture are determined by climate, weather, and s...
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Restoration treatments, such as revegetation with seeding or invasive species removal, have been applied on U.S. public lands for decades. Temporal trends in these management actions have not been extensively summarized previously, particularly in the southwestern United States where invasive plant species, drought, and fire have altered dryland ec...
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Aridity is an important environmental filter in the assembly of plant communities worldwide. The extent to which root traits mediate responses to aridity, and how they are coordinated with leaf traits, remains unclear. Here, we measured variation in root tissue density (RTD), specific root length (SRL), specific leaf area (SLA), and seed size withi...
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Drylands cover 40% of the global terrestrial surface and provide important ecosystem services. While drylands as a whole are expected to increase in extent and aridity in coming decades, temperature and precipitation forecasts vary by latitude and geographic region suggesting different trajectories for tropical, subtropical, and temperate drylands....