The Utah Forest Dynamics Plot (UFDP) is a research and educational project affiliated with the Utah State University, the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, and the University of Montana. The UFDP is located in Cedar Breaks National Monument. It lies in high elevation, spruce-fir forests with a considerable pine and aspen component. The plot size is 13.2 ha. All trees ≥1 cm at breast height (1.37 m) are mapped, as are shrub species with with main stems ≥1 cm in diameter at 1.37 m. The genus Pinus (Pinus longaeva, Pinus flexilis, Pinus ponderosa, Pinus edulis) is mapped without respect to size - every stem two years and older is measured.

Research Objectives
Change detection and attribution
Permanent sample plot studies have been able to attribute changes to climate, the effects of blister rust and fire, and the causes and consequences of tree mortality. Particularly because causes and rates of tree mortality on the Colorado Plateau may be changing, with attendant consequences for forest structure, large permanent sample plots are the only way to identify the causes and magnitudes of these changes.
Biomass and carbon sequestration
Generate deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind changes in biomass and carbon storage in Colorado Plateau mixed-conifer forests, and create extensive data sets on structural elements such as down woody debris and organic components of the forest floor in addition to the live overstory. The large spatial extent of the UFDP combined with the fine-scale spatial resolution of measurements also can enhance understanding of adequate field measurements for these structural elements, as well as the influence of landscape variables such as soil parent material and topography.
Canopy effects on snow storage
Most of the water used in the state of Utah originates in the winter snowpack, and much of that snowpack forms under forest or woodland tree canopies. We are investigating the effect of different tree species and forest densities on the accumulation and melt of snow.
Provide the mechanistic understanding of forest dynamics needed to forecast forest changes in Cedar Breaks in the face of ongoing regional and global changes. The UFDP has been located in a forest type that may experience a high level of climate-induced change.
Theoretical ecology
Contribute to the basic ecological understanding of western coniferous forests and forest ecosystems around the world. As we are affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution Center for Tropical Forest Science network of large forest dynamics plots, the Utah Forest Dynamics Plot provides a unique opportunity to compare the dynamics of tropical and temperate forests, while raising the profile of Cedar Breaks National Monument within the global ecological community. The large number of trees and the spatially explicit data provide a unique opportunity to test such theoretical constructs such as Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and the Janzen-Connell Hypothesis in a temperate context.
Education and training
This project provides training opportunities for students, biologists and citizen-scientists every year. Our vision is to integrate research and teaching through the experiential education model. Students learn fundamentals of forest ecology and field work skills by participating in plot remeasurements, and in this way a sizeable cadre of future scientists and land managers gains familiarity with Utah forests and Utah issues. We pair experienced ecologists with newcomers in field sessions, and in this way we hope to introduce many people to the ecology of the Colorado Plateau and current ecological issues. Every summer, PI Lutz accompanies student volunteers to the plot to record data. For many students, this is their first experience working in the field with ecologists and learning the how and the why of ecological science.
This long-term monitoring project represents a collaboration among scientists, land managers, educators, and interested private parties. The principal investigators donate their time to the project, and any available funds are used 100% for equipment, supplies, or field crews (generally undergraduate or graduate students). We are always looking for collaborators and partners who share our goal of understanding and preserving the forests of Utah. Please join us.
The Utah Forest Dyanamics Plot is located in the 2nd Congressional District (Representative Chris Stewart) of Utah (Governor Gary Herbert, Senator Orrin Hatch, and Senator Mike Lee). The Superintendent of Cedar Breaks National Monument is Paul Roelandt.
Companion Plot
The Utah Forest Dyanamics Plot has two companion plots, the Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot and the Wind River Forest Dynamics Plot. The three plots together allow us to examine late successional forest dynamics over much of the West, minimizing the confounding factors of species and climate.
Social Media
Follow our efforts on Facebook: Utah Forest Dynamics Plot. The Facebook page includes many photos of plot conditions.