Travis Belote, Ph.D.

Author Contact

Lead Ecologist



Travis Belote has served as a research ecologist in the Northern Rockies Office of The Wilderness Society in Bozeman, MT since 2009. His research focuses on understanding the basic science of ecosystems to inform conservation and adaptive management under increasing pressures of global change (including land use, climate change, and invasive species). He has studied the effects of fire on biodiversity, climate change on invasive species, the impacts of alternative timber harvesting disturbances on forest resilience, and ecological thresholds in rangelands. Recently his work has used large-scale spatial data to map wildland values and climate change vulnerability to guide conservation strategies. His research has appeared in EcologyEcological Applications, and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, among other journals. He completed his M.S. at the University of Tennessee, Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, and conducted postdoctoral research with the USGS in Flagstaff, AZ. 

Note: I serve on graduate committees of students at the University of Montana and Montana State University and enjoy collaborating with students. Please contact me if you would like to discuss project ideas.

Current Research Themes

Landscape assessment of wildland values, connectivity, and climate change

Understanding the effects of “global change” (climate change, invasive species, changing land use, etc.) on biodiversity and ecosystem functions forms the core of much of my work applying basic ecological understanding to conservation challenges. I have worked on questions related to how climate change influences invasive species, the impacts of timber harvests in Appalachian hardwood forests, and identifying ecological thresholds in rangeland management of semi-arid grasslands of the Colorado Plateau. Recently, I have been focused on investigating projected impacts of climate change on landscapes as it relates to conservation strategies using large spatial datasets. Through this work, we have assessed the representation of ecosystems within protected areas (Dietz et al. 2015), the relative wildness of land (Aplet et al. 2000), and a national model of connectivity (Belote et al. 2016). 

Fire regimes and biodiversity of the Northern Rockies

I am interested in the ecology of disturbance, especially fire, as it relates to the influence and maintenance of biodiversity from local and regional species diversity, structural heterogeneity, and landscape composition. With collaborators at the University of Montana (Dr. Andrew Larson), I have been studying the effects of mixed severity fire on western larch forest composition and structure in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. With collaborators at Montana State University (Dr. Laura Burkle), I am studying the influence of fire on “beta diversity” (among site differences in species composition) across a productivity gradient in the Northern Rockies. Understanding fire's role in governing landscape composition and function is critical for conservation of ecosystems of the Northern Rockies.

For General Audiences

Video clip from The Truth About Trees "Passing These Forests On To Future Generations"

Wilderness and Conservation Strategy in the Anthropocene (The Pinchot Letter)

Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness 

To intervene or not to intervene: this is a real question (blog on The EEB and Flow)

The conception of wild ideas: scientists confront conservation challenges of our times (essay published in The Appalachian Voice)

Select Peer-Reviewed Scientific Publications

Please also see google scholar for a full list of publications or my full CV.

  1. Belote, R.T., R.M. Cooper, and R.A. Daniels. In revision. Contemporary composition of land use, ecosystems, and conservation status along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The Natural Areas Journal XX: xxx-xxx
  2. Belote, R. T., M. S. Dietz, B. H. McRae, D. M. Theobald, M. L. McClure, G. H. Irwin, P. S. McKinley, J. A. Gage, and G. H. Aplet. 2016. Identifying Corridors among Large Protected Areas in the United States. PLoS ONE 11:e0154223.
  3. Belote, R.T., M.S. Dietz, and G.H. Aplet. 2015. Allocating untreated controls to assist climate adaptation strategies: a case study from the Flathead National Forest, Montana. Northwest Science 89: 239-254
  4. Aycrigg, J.L., J.L. Tricker, R.T. Belote, M.S. Dietz, L. Duarte, and G.H. Aplet. 2016. The next 50 years: opportunities for diversifying the ecological representation of the National Wilderness Preservation System within the contiguous United States. Journal of Forestry 114: 396-404.
  5. Burkle, L.A., J.A. Myers, and R.T. Belote. 2015. Wildfire disturbance and productivity as drivers of plant species diversity across spatial scales. Ecosphere  6:art202
  6. Davis, C.R., R.T. Belote, M. Williamson, B. Esch, and A.J. Larson. 2015. A rapid forest assessment method for multi-party, landscape monitoring. Journal of Forestry XX: xxx-xxx
  7. Burkle, L.A., J.A. Myers, and R.T. Belote. 2015. The beta-diversity of species interactions: Untangling the drivers of geographic variation in plant-pollinator diversity and function across scales. American Journal of Botany XX: xxx-xxx. doi:10.3732/ajb.1500079
  8. Hessburg, P.F., D.J. Churchill, A.J. Larson,  R.D. Haugo, T.A. Spies, N. A. Povak, R.T. Belote, P.A. Singleton, M. P. North, W.L. Gaines, R.E. Keane, S. L. Stephens, P. Morgan, G.H. Aplet, P.A. Bisson, B.E. Rieman. R.B. Salter. G.H. Reeves, C.A. Miller. 2015. Restoring fire-prone landscapes: seven core principles. Landscape Ecology 30: 1805-1835
  9. Belote, R.T., A.J. Larson, and M.S. Dietz. 2015. Tree survival scales to community-level effects following mixed-severity fire in a mixed-conifer forest. Forest Ecology and Management 353: 221-231.
  10. Dietz, M.S., R.T. Belote, G.H. Aplet, and J.L. Aycrigg. 2015. The world’s largest wilderness preservation system after 50 years: how well are ecosystems represented? Biological Conservation 184: 431-438.
  11. Belote, R.T. 2015. Contemporary patterns of burn severity heterogeneity from fires in the Northwestern U.S. In: Keane, Robert E.; Jolly, Matt; Parsons, Russell; Riley, Karin. 2015. Proceedings of the large wildland fires conference; May 19-23, 2014; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-73. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 345 p.
  12. Burkle, L.A. and R.T. Belote. 2015. Soil mutualists modify priority effects on plant productivity, diversity, and composition. Applied Vegetation Science 18: 332-342.
  13. Belote, R.T. and G.H. Aplet. 2014. Land protection and timber harvesting along productivity and diversity gradients in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Ecosphere 5(2):17.
  14. Hopkins, T., A.J. Larson, and R.T. Belote.  2014. Contrasting effects of wildfire and ecological restoration in old-growth western larch forests. Forest Science 60: 1005-1013.
  15. Larson, A.J., R.T. Belote, M. Williamson, and G.H. Aplet. 2013. Making monitoring count: project design for active adaptive management. Journal of Forestry 111: 348-356.
  16. Larson, A.J., R.T. Belote, C.A. Cansler, S.A. Parks, and M.S. Dietz. 2013. Latent resilience in ponderosa pine forests: effects of a resumed frequent fire. Ecological Applications 23:1243–1249.
  17. Hutto, R.L. and R.T. Belote. 2013. Four types of questions that monitoring can address. Forest Ecology and Management 289: 183-189
  18. Belote, R.T., R.H. Jones, and T.F. Wieboldt. 2012. Compositional stability and diversity of vascular plant communities following logging disturbance in Appalachian forests. Ecological Applications 22: 502-516.
  19. Miller, M.E., R.T. Belote, M.A. Bowker, and S.L. Garman. 2011. Alternative states of a semiarid grassland ecosystem: implications for ecosystem services. Ecosphere 2(5):art55 doi:10.1890/ES11-00027.1
  20. Belote, R.T., S.P. Prisley, R.H. Jones, M. Fitzpatrick, and K. de Beurs. 2011. Forest productivity and tree diversity relationships depend on ecological context within mid-Atlantic and Appalachian forests. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 1315-1324.
  21. Belote, R.T., L.J. Makarick, M.J. Kearsley, and C.L. Lauver. 2010. Tamarisk removal in Grand Canyon National Park: Changing the native-exotic relationship as a restoration goal. Ecological Restoration 28: 449-459.
  22. Souza, L., R.T. Belote, P. Kardol,  J.F. Weltzin, and R.J. Norby. 2010. CO2 enrichment accelerates successional development of an understory plant community. Journal of Plant Ecology 3: 33-39.
  23. Belote, R.T., N.J. Sanders, and  R.H. Jones. 2009. Disturbance alters local-regional richness relationships in Appalachian forests. Ecology 90: 2940-2947
  24. Belote, R.T. and  R.H. Jones. 2009. Tree leaf litter composition and nonnative earthworms influence plant invasion in experimental forest floor mesocosms. Biological Invasions 11: 1045-1052.
  25. Belote, R.T., R.H. Jones, S.M. Hood, and B.W. Wender. 2008. Diversity-invasibility along a disturbance gradient in Appalachian forests. Ecology 89: 183-192
  26. Belote, R.T. and J.F. Weltzin. 2006. Interactions between two co-dominant, invasive plants in a temperate deciduous forest. Biological Invasions 8: 1629-1641
  27. Weltzin, J.F., R.T. Belote, L.M. Thomas, J.K. Keller, C.E. Engel. 2006. Authorship in ecology: attribution, accountability, and responsibility. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 4: 435-441
  28. Belote, R.T., J.F. Weltzin, and R.J. Norby. 2004. Response of an understory plant community to elevated [CO2] depends on differential responses of dominant invasive species and is mediated by soil water availability. New Phytologist 161: 827-835. 
  29. Sanders, N.J., R.T. Belote, and J.F. Weltzin. 2004. Multi-trophic effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on understory plant and arthropod communities. Environmental Entomology 33: 1609-1616.
  30. Weltzin, J.F., R.T. Belote, N.J. Sanders. 2003. Biological invaders in a greenhouse world: will elevated CO2fuel plant invasions? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1:146-153.