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Road Decommissioning: Contributions to watershed restoration on the Monongahela National Forest

Road decommissioning can help restore the natural flow of water through a forested landscape, which can also help to make watersheds more resilient to climate change.

Multiple presenters
Publication date: 

Superior National Forest – North Shore Forest Restoration Project


Stephen Hander (NIACS), Becky Bartol and Katie Frerker (Superior National Forest), Bridget Faust (Association of State Floodplain Managers)
Project process and implementation: 

As a part of its Climate Change Response Framework, NIACS has developed a flexible process to help forest managers and landowners address climate change called Forest Adaptation Resources (FAR).  This process includes an Adaptation Workbook, which asks forest managers to consider a series of questions to focus their thinking on potential climate impacts and adaptation actions for a particular project with real-world management goals.

During a 2-day workshop in April 2013, NIACS led a discussion among the SNF staff involved in planning the North Shore Forest Restoration Project. This team outlined the major goals of the project and considered how a range of broad-scale projected climate change scenarios might affect the particular landscape along the North Shore. NIACS shared information on general climate change trends and projections from the Minnesota Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment mentioned above, and resource specialists from the SNF (silviculture, soils, hydrology, wildlife, fire and fuels, etc.) used their own local knowledge and expertise to consider how the general projections might play out locally within the project area. Then the team thought critically about how climate change might present both challenges and opportunities for the management goals of the North Shore Forest Restoration Project, and brainstormed a wide range of adaptation tactics that could address expected climate impacts.  A “menu” of adaptation actions from the FAR document helped the team generate specific ideas. Finally, the team discussed key monitoring items that would be helpful to determine if adaptation actions were effective.

A summary of the process from the Adaptation Workbook. The North Shore Restoration Project used this process to incorporate climate change into their planning.A summary of the process from the Adaptation Workbook. The North Shore Restoration Project used this process to incorporate climate change into their plans.

Project Outcomes: 

The workshop mentioned above occurred shortly after the public 30-day scoping period for the project.  After going through the Adaptation Workbook, SNF staff continued to think about possible adaptation actions and refine the North Shore Forest Restoration Project.  Importantly, the team recognized that many of the management actions they already had planned also had benefits for climate change adaptation. Also, northeastern Minnesota may turn out to be one of the best possible “refuge” areas in the region for boreal species like paper birch and white spruce. Therefore, the team ultimately decided to proceed with many of the original goals and objectives of the project. Several modifications were added to the Proposed Action to increase diversity and future management flexibility, and some of these included:

  • Identifying the best possible locations to retain paper birch on the landscape for the long-term, including stands of healthy paper birch, areas with north-facing slopes, and cold pockets.
  • Identify stands of old, poor-quality paper birch for restoration to other appropriate native or climate-adapted forest types.
  • Increasing the proportion of planted white pine, a species expected to fare better under climate change.
  • Planting additional native species that are present in the surrounding landscape that were not originally part of the project design, including bur oak, and northern red oak.
  • Try a variety of deer herbivory protection strategies – fences, tree cages, bud caps, and/or repellent sprays.

Adding these adjustments to the original Proposed Action will help the Superior National Forest restore forest cover along the North Shore, and accomplish the objectives of restoring native vegetation communities, improving wildlife habitat, improving watershed health, providing sustainable timber products and reducing hazardous fuels.

A final Decision Notice was issued for the North Shore Forest Restoration Project in August of 2014.  More information about the final decision and planned actions is available on the Superior National Forest website. Implementation of the project will begin in 2014 and continue for the next several years.

Sea Level Rise and Lake Level Viewers

Overview & Applicability

Rising sea levels are being caused by a change in the volume of the world's oceans due to temperature increase, deglaciation (uncovering of glaciated land because of melting of the glacier), and ice melt. This data viewer can provide a preliminary look at sea level rise and how it might affect coastal resources across the United States (with the exception of Alaska and Louisiana). Data and maps can be used at several scales to help gauge trends and prioritize actions for different scenarios.


This data viewer can provide a preliminary look at sea level rise and how it might affect coastal resources across the United States (with the exception of Alaska and Louisiana). Data and maps can be used at several scales to help gauge trends and prioritize actions for different scenarios.

Restoring composition and structure in frequent-fire forests: a science-based framework for improving ecosystem resiliency

Rocky Mountain Research Station
Research Partners: 
University Northern Arizona, USFS Southwestern Region
Principal Investigator(s): 
Richard T. Reynolds

Many forests in the southwestern U.S. are adapted to frequent, low-intensity fires. These forests are currently experiencing uncharacteristicly severe wildfire, insect, and disease episodes resulting in altered plant and animal demographics, reduced productivity and biodiversity, and impaired ecosystem functions. These disturbances are predicted to increase as future climates in the Southwest become warmer and dryer. This research aimed to develop a restoration framework for frequent-fire forests based on restoring the historical composition, structure, and spatial patterns of vegetation. Implementing the restoration framework is expected to improve the resiliency of frequent-fire forests by allowing natural ecosystem processes such as low-intenisty fire to resume. Restoring key elements may position frequent-fire forests throughout the western U.S. to better resist, respond, and adapt to future climates and disturbances.

Project Abstract: 

Ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests in the Southwest United States are experiencing, or have become increasingly susceptible to large-scale severe wildfire, insect, and disease episodes resulting in altered plant and animal demographics, reduced productivity and biodiversity, and impaired ecosystem processes and functions. We present a management framework based on a synthesis of science on forest ecology and management, reference conditions, and lessons learned during implementations of our restoration framework. The framework focuses on the restoration of key elements similar to the historical composition and structure of vegetation in these forests: (1) species composition; (2) groups of trees; (3) scattered individual trees; (4) grass-forb-shrub interspaces; (5) snags, logs, and woody debris; and (6) variation in the arrangements of these elements in space and time. Our framework informs management strategies that can improve the resiliency of frequent-fire forests and facilitate the resumption of characteristic ecosystem processes and functions by restoring the composition, structure, and spatial patterns of vegetation. Restoration of key compositional and structural elements on a per-site basis will restore resiliency of frequent-fire forests in the Southwest, thereby position them to better adapt to future disturbances and climates.

Project Status: 
Research Results: 

Numerous implementations of the framework have been completed in the past 20 years in New Mexico and Arizona. Currently, the framework's key elements are being evaluated via LiDAR regarding their effects on biodiversity, food webs, and the long-term demographic performance of an apex predator (northern goshawk) on the Kaibab Plateau.

One implementation, Eager South on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, was hit by the 2011 Wallow Fire. The Eagar South WUI Fuel Reduction Project environmental assessment was finalized in 2006. The project area was chosen to be used as a demonstration to provide the framework for understanding historical conditions, ecological processes, and the natural range of forest conditions. These concepts form the basis for ecological strategies in restoring the integrity of ponderosa pine ecosystems within and outside the wildland-urban interface. A collaborative approach was used to develop thinning prescriptions that had no diameter cap and created leave tree groups (RMRS-GTR-217, RMRS-GTR-310). Tree groups were based on current conditions and not on a forestry standard spacing between individual trees, but between the collective group of trees. This approach created or maintained uneven-aged forest conditions (groups of trees each composed of different ages), valuable wildlife habitat, and met fuel reduction objectives.

The Eagar south landscape is variable with the elevation on the south end at 8,600’ dropping to the north to 7,100’. The vegetation is primarily ponderosa pine with mixed conifer on the north aspects and drainages and piñon/juniper woodland at the lower elevations.

On June 7th the 2011 Wallow Fire made a push from the southwest into the Eagar South WUI first burning an untreated mixed conifer slope. The running crown fire hit the treatment full force, the blast of hot air caused mortality at the edge and into the treated area for a distance of up to 300’. However, the crown fire did not penetrate the treatment area. The subsequent ground fire that followed in the treatment area had variable flame lengths with moderate intensity. The fire spread was greatly reduced by the treatment area and the fire was stalled for several hours as it slowly progressed down slope (before and after treatment aerial photos, and before and after Wallow Fire photos are available).

Climate change effects on vegetation in the Pacific Northwest: a review and synthesis of the scientific literature and simulation model projections

This paper reviews current scientific knowledge on projected climate changes in the Pacific Northwest, plant responses and adaptability to these changes, and recent model projections of vegetation responses to future climate change scenarios, with emphasis on five major biome types. It includes a discussion of current approaches and resources for developing climate change adaptation strategies, including restoring historical vegetation structure and composition, promoting resistance to change, promoting resilience to change, and facilitating anticipated responses to change.

Science synthesis to support socioecological resilience in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Range

This synthesis integrates recent research concerning socioecological resilience in the Sierra Nevada, southern Cascade Range, and Modoc Plateau. Among the focal topics are forest and fire ecology; soils; aquatic ecosystems; forest carnivores; air quality; and the social, economic, and cultural components of socioecological systems. A central theme is the importance of restoring key ecological processes to mitigate impacts of widespread stressors, including changes in climate, fire deficit and fuel accumulations, air pollution, and pathogens and invasive species.

Forest conservation and management in the Anthropocene: Conference proceedings

In these collected papers, leading scientists, resource managers and policy specialists explore the implications of climate change and other manifestations of the Anthropocene on the management of wildlife habitat, biodiversity, water, and other resources, with particular attention to the effects of wildfire. Recommendations include the need for a supporting institutional, legal, and policy framework that is not just different but more dynamic, to facilitate resource management adaptation and preparedness in a period of accelerating environmental change.

Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation in the North Cascades Region, Washington

The North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership (NCAP) is a science-management partnership that has worked with numerous stakeholders over 2 years to identify climate change issues relevant to resource management in the North Cascades, and to find solutions that will help the diverse ecosystems of this region transition into a warmer climate. The NCAP provided education, conducted a climate change vulnerability assessment, and developed adaptation options for federal agencies that manage 2.4 million hectares in north-central Washington.

Sierra Nevada Climate, Water Yield, and Water Quality

Pacific Southwest Research Station
Principal Investigator(s): 
Carol Hunsaker

Ten headwater catchments in the southern Sierra Nevada have been studied since 2003 with regard to climate conditions, water yield, and water quality. Five of the catchments are in the current rain-snow interface climate zone and five are in the snow-dominated zone. Since there is only a 1,000 foot difference between these zones, the higher elevation catchments are expected to transition to a combination of rain and snow as climate changes in California.  Studying how the lower elevation area functions gives us insight about how the higher elevation area will function with a changing climate; for the southern Sierra Nevada this is predicted to be less snow and more rain with about the same total amount of precipitation. This knowledge is very important as 50% of the surface water for California originates in the Sierra Nevada.

Project Status: 

Aspen Stands on the Park Falls District: A Climate Change Adaptation Demonstration Project

In this video slideshow, see how managers on the Chequamegon-Nicolet approached climate change adaptation and options for enhancing forest reslience in two aspen stands.

Jerry VanCleve
Publication date: 
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