Collaborative research: Fire, ecosystem, and landscape dynamics in Afroalpine environments in a warmer world

Project: Research project

Project Details


Mountain regions are sensitive to climate change, where recent warming has contributed to changes in species, declines in water resources, and increasingly intense fires. The interactions between climate change, wildfire, and water cycles are well-studied in many mountain regions, such as the western United States, where forest fires are very frequent. Recent events suggest that wildfire may also be an emerging threat to tropical mountain environments, where natural fires are thought to be rare. The effects of wildfires on forest composition and water resources in tropical mountain regions are poorly known. The goal of this project is to investigate the causes of changes in fire, vegetation, and flooding in tropical mountains, specifically in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Uganda. This research will improve our ability to predict the responses of tropical mountain systems to future climate change and establish a basis for management strategies related to fire in these ecosystems. The project will provide opportunities for many graduate and undergraduate students to conduct research, will deliver a short course on climate and vegetation modeling, and will develop new classroom modules to be used in the Providence Public School System.

This research will investigate the interactions between climate, fire regimes, vegetation composition, and flooding through analysis of lake sediment cores recovered from alpine environments in the Rwenzori Mountains, a site famous for its biodiversity. The project will test the hypothesis that changes in fire regimes in tropical mountain environments are influenced by temperature change. The role of changing fire regimes in influencing vegetation assemblages and catalyzing flood events will also be examined. The project will generate new paleoecological and paleoclimatological records based on several aspects of the sediment cores: fossil charcoal and pollen composition, organic geochemical data, and sediment composition. These analyses will focus on time intervals such as the mid-Holocene, when temperatures were warmer than the present day, to investigate how warm temperatures influenced ecosystem dynamics. The results are expected to contribute to the understanding of ecosystem dynamics and resilience in poorly-studied Afroalpine environments. This project is co-funded by the Geomorphology and Land-use Dynamics Program.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date6/1/215/31/24


  • National Science Foundation: $302,474.00


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