Kerns, Becky

Courtesy Faculty
Research Ecologist, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Ecosystem Dynamics and Environmental Change Team, Threat Characterization and Management Program

Office Location: 
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Terrestrial plant ecology, disturbance ecology, restoration ecology

Educational Background: 
  • Ph.D., 1999, Forest Ecosystem Science, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University.
  • M.S., 1993, Quaternary Studies, Northern Arizona University.
  • B.S., 1988, Geological Science, University of California at Santa Barbara.
Research Interests: 
  • Determining the effects of restoration and management activities (prescribed fire, fuel reduction, seeding) on forest plant communities and exotic invasive plant species, including interactions with and among biotic and abiotic factors
  • Developing understanding and theory about fire and large herbivore interactions and feedbacks, and effects on forest vegetation and exotic species
  • Exploring potential mid- and broad-scale vegetation response to future climatic variability and change.
Current Research: 
  • Dry forest restoration: Prescribed fire regimes and disturbance interactions. I serve as the Principle Investigator for long-term The Season and Interval of Burn Study, Malheur National Forest (JFSP funded, established in 1997). Collaborators and I are investigating the effect of season of burn (spring and fall), interval of burn (5 and 15-year), and cattle grazing on an array of ecosystem response variables—tree growth and mortality, interactions with insect and diseases, fuels, understory vegetation and exotic plant species, and soil properties and biota.
  • Understory restoration in the Wildland Urban Interface. Wildland urban interface areas (WUI) are characterized by low and medium housing density, extensive road systems, and a mix of private and public land ownership intermingled with wildland vegetation. These highly fragmented forest systems are also the focus of federal policies that prioritize hazardous fuels reduction where human population and housing values are at risk. Thus these areas present restoration challenges for land managers tasked with reducing wildfire risk, preserving biodiversity and minimizing invasive species impacts.
  • Vegetation models and climate change: Developing a framework for decision making. Colleagues and I are working on methods and applications for linking state-and-transition-simulation models with MC1, a Dynamic Global Vegetation Model. An urgent need exists to incorporate climate change into tools used for natural resource planning and landscape assessments. There is widespread interest in developing protocols and conducting research on “climatizing” these models.
  • Climate change and northwestern vegetation: understanding potential responses. I am working with colleagues to review, synthesize, and analyze climate change effects on vegetation in the Pacific Northwest. The work involves analysis and interpretation of a large and broad body of previously published literature, and analysis and synthesis of model output.
Selected Publications: 
  1. Kline, J.D, Kerns, B.K., Buonopane, M, and Hammer, R. In press. Mapping multiple forest threats in the Northwest. Journal of Forestry.
  2. Ayres, M., Hicke, J., A., Kerns, B. K., McKenzie, D. Littell, J. S., Band, L. E., Luce, C. H., and Aaron S. Weed. In Press. Effects of climate change on disturbance regimes. In: Peterson, D.L., J.M. Vose, T. Patel-Weynand, and Contributing Authors. Climate Change and United States Forests. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
  3. Buonopane, M., Snider, G., Kerns, B.K., and Doescher, P. 2013. Complex restoration challenges: Weeds, seeds, and roads in a forested Wildland Urban Interface. Forest Ecology and Management 295:87-96.
  4. Kerns, B.; Guo, Q. 2012. Invasive Plants and Climate Change. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Climate Change Resource Center. http://www.fs.fed.us/ccrc/topics/invasive-plants/.
  5. Kerns, B., K., Shlisky, A., Daniels, C. (technical editors). 2012. The First State-and-Transition Landscape Simulation Modeling Conference Proceedings. PNW-GTR-869. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 215 p.
  6. Kerns, B. K., Hemstrom, M., Conklin, D., Yospin, G., Johnson, B., Brigham, S. 2012. Approaches to incorporating climate change effects in vegetation state and transition models. In: The First State- and-Transition Landscape Simulation Modeling Conference Proceedings, pp 161-171. PNW-GTR-869. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station.
  7. Littell, J. S., D. McKenzie, B. K. Kerns, S. Cushman, and C. G. Shaw. 2011. On using climate driven ecological models to inform decision making to prepare for climate change. Ecosphere 2(9):102. doi:10.1890/ES11-00114.1.
  8. Kerns, B.K., Buonopane, M. B., Thies, W., and Niwa, C. 2011. Reintroducing fire into a ponderosa pine forest with and without cattle grazing: understory vegetation response. Ecosphere 2(5):artXX.doi:10.1890/ES10-00183.I
  9. Kerns, B.K., B. Naylor, M. Buonopane, C. Parks, B. Rogers. 2009. Modeling tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) habitat and climate change effects in the Northwestern United States. Invasive Plant Science and Management 2:200-215
  10. Furniss, M.J.; Millar, C.I.; Peterson, D.L.; Joyce, L.A.; Neilson, R.P.; Halofsky, J.E.; Kerns, B.K. (editors). 2009. Adapting to Climate Change: A Short Course for Land Managers. GTR-PNW-789.
  11. Ager, A., M. A. Finney, and B.K. Kerns. 2007. Modeling wildfire risk to northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurin) habitat in Central Oregon, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 246:45-56.
  12. Kerns, B.K. and A. Ager. 2007. Risk assessment for biodiversity conservation planning in Pacific Northwest forests. Forest Ecology and Management 246:38-44.
  13. Kerns, B. K., Thies, W. G., and Niwa, C. 2006. Season and severity of prescribed burn in ponderosa pine forests: implications for understory native and exotic plants. Écoscience 13(2): 44-55.
  14. Kerns, B. K., and J. Ohmann. 2004. Evaluation and prediction of shrub cover in coastal Oregon forests. Ecological Indicators 4:83-98.
  15. Higgins, S., K. Blatner, B. K. Kerns, and A. Worthington. 2004. Relationship between Xerophyllum tenax and overstory coverage in the southern Cascades of Washington. Western Journal of Applied Forestry 19:82-87.
  16. Kerns, B. K., S. J. Alexander, and J. D. Bailey. 2004. Huckleberry abundance, stand conditions and use in western Oregon: evaluating the role of forest management. Economic Botany 58:668-678
  17. Kerns, B. K, D. Pilz, H. Ballard, and S. J. Alexander. 2003. Compatible Management of Understory Forest Resources and Timber. In: Johnson, A. C., R. W. Haynes, and R. A. Monserud; eds. Compatible Forest Management, pp. 337-381. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  18. Kerns, B. K., M. M. Moore, M. E. Timpson, and S. C. Hart. 2003. Soil properties associated with vegetation patches in a ponderosa pine-bunchgrass mosaic. Western North American Naturalist 63:452-462.
  19. Kerns, B. K., L. Liegel, D. Pilz, and S. J. Alexander. 2002. Biological inventory and monitoring. In: R. Fight, E. Jones, R. Mclain, and J. Weigand, eds, Non Timber Forest Products in the United States, pp. 237-269. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
  20. Kerns, B. K., M. M. Moore and S. C. Hart. 2001. Estimating forest-grassland dynamics using soil phytolith assemblages and SOM δ13C. Écoscience 8(4):478-488.
  21. Kerns, B. K. 2001. Diagnostic phytoliths for a ponderosa pine-bunchgrass community near Flagstaff, Arizona. The Southwestern Naturalist 46(3):282-294.