This assessment evaluates the vulnerability of forest ecosystems in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province of northern Wisconsin and western Upper Michigan under a range of future climates. Over 40 managers and researchers contributed to this report from the Climate Change Response Framework, from various federal, state, tribal, non-profit, academic, and private organizations.
This assessment evaluates the vulnerability of forest ecosystems in Minnesota to a range of future climates. Information on current forest conditions, observed climate trends, projected climate changes, and impacts to forest ecosystems was considered in order to draw conclusions on climate change vulnerability.
What will the rivers of the Pacific Northwest look like in the future? Will they be stable or unstable? Will they have salmon or other species? Will the waters be cold and clear or warm and muddy? These questions motivate our study of the effects of climate warming on streams draining the Cascade Mountains.
Previous studies have shown that snowpacks throughout the Cascades are highly vulnerable to warming temperatures, readily changing from snow to rain, and melting earlier. Less certain is how these changes are likely to affect streamflows, particularly in streams that derive much of their flow from deep groundwater and springs. These groundwater streams, which are currently characterized by very stable bed, banks, and vegetation, are particularly sensitive to increasing peak flows in the winter. We want to know how changing snowpacks and increased peak flows are likely to affect these channels, potentially changing their suitability as habitat for threatened species such as bull trout and spring Chinook. Results from our work, which include field and modeling components, will be used to guide management decisions affecting these streams: how dams are operated, whether water suppliers need to worry about turbidity, and how we should manage riparian vegetation.
A key challenge for resource and land managers is predicting the consequences of climate warming on streamflow and water resources. Over the last century in the western US, significant reductions in snowpack and earlier snowmelt have led to an increase in the fraction of annual streamflow during winter, and a decline in the summer. This study explores the relative roles of snowpack accumulation and melt, and landscape characteristics or 'drainage efficiency', in influencing streamflow. An analysis of streamflow during 1950-2010 for 81 watersheds across the western US indicates that summer streamflows in watersheds that drain slowly from deep groundwater and receive precipitation as snow are most sensitive to climate warming. During the spring, however, watersheds that drain rapidly and receive precipitation as snow are most sensitive to climate warming. Our results indicate that not all trends in the western US are associated with changes in snowpack dynamics; we observe declining streamflow in late fall and winter in rain-dominated watersheds as well. These empirical findings have implications for how streamflow sensitivity to warming is interpreted across broad regions.
Changes in timing and magnitudes of streamflows under climate change pose significant risks to ecosystems, infrastructure, and overall availability of water for human use. We have developed a spatial analysis that predicts how both peak (winter) and low (summer) streamflows are likely to change in the future for Oregon and Washington. This set of spatial tools gives land managers a full toolbox with which to anticipate and plan for streamflow changes on forest lands.
Water stress represents a common mechanism for many of the primary disturbances affecting forests, and forest management needs to explicitly address the very large physiological demands that vegetation has for water. This study demonstrates how state-of-science ecohydrologic models can be used to explore how different management strategies might improve forest health.
Widespread threats to forests due to drought stress prompt re-thinking of priorities for water management on forest lands. In contrast to the widely held view that forest management should emphasize providing water for downstream uses, we argue that maintaining forest health in the face of environmental change may require focusing on the forests themselves and strategies to reduce their vulnerability to increasing water stress in the context of a changing climate. Management strategies would need to be tailored to specific landscapes but could include: a) thinning; 2) encouraging drought-tolerant species; 3) irrigation; and 4) strategies that make more water available to plants for transpiration. Hydrologic modeling reveals that specific management actions could reduce tree mortality due to drought stress. Adopting water conservation for vegetation as a priority for managing water on forest lands would represent a fundamental change in perspective and potentially involve tradeoffs with other downstream uses of water.
Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State University
Todd M. Wilson
Natural areas are special areas set aside for research, conservation, and education. There are over 580 natural areas in Oregon and Washington totaling >1.4 million acres and managed by 20 agencies and organizations. These include Forest Service Research Natural Areas (RNAs) as well as BLM RNAs and Areas of Critical Ecological Concern. Natural areas may one of the best network of sites for studying long-term effects of climate change and this project focuses on three areas of study. The first is to determine if natural areas adequately represent the depth and breadth of the natural ecosystems found in both states. The second is to prioritize sites that may be most vulnerable to climate change effects in the next several decades. Initial findings suggest natural areas are representative across several ecological gradients important for understanding effects of long-term climate and ecological change. In addition, several lists are being developed to help prioritize monitoring based on predictions from a broad range of existing climate change models. The third area of focus is to develop a standardized set of monitoring protocols for long-term monitoring of change using existing and new protocols. New methods being tested include use of terrestrial LIDAR plots to monitor changes in forest structure over time.
See more below
Massie, M. H. 2014. Assessment of the Vulnerability of Oregon and Washington’s Natural Areas to Climate Change. Master's thesis. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331.
The Forest Planner enables landowners in Oregon and Washington to find, map, and design custom forest management scenarios for their properties. Users can select the property and forest stands that they want to examine, enter information about the tree species and forest types represented, and select from a variety of management scenarios.
The Forest Planner enables landowners to visualize alternative forest management scenarios for their properties and their effect on variables including timber stocking and yields, carbon storage, and fire and pest hazard ratings.
Emrys Treasure, Mary Morrison, John Cleeves, Kristen Schmitt
Project process and implementation:
Forest Plan Revision under the 2012 Planning Rule is an iterative process that includes three general phases – 1) assessment; 2) developing, amending or revising the forest plan, and; 3) implementation and monitoring (see fig 1). The plan revision is currently in progress on the Francis Marion, and materials are revised as new information and public input become available. See the Francis Marion Plan Revision webpage for the most current information.
At each of these three phases, there are opportunities to consider climate change, how it will affect forest resources on the Francis Marion, and how to develop appropriate management responses and monitoring efforts. In order to base these climate change considerations on the best available science, the Francis Marion partnered researchers and used TACCIMO for knowledge management. TACCIMO is a web-based information delivery tool that was developed by the Southern Research Station (SRS) Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC) and the Forest Service’s Southern Region (R8) to connect climate change science with forest management and planning needs. The TACCIMO support team works directly with national forests on a variety of planning efforts, and these collaborations help TACCIMO tool evolve over time. The forests in the Southern Region are among the first to directly incorporate climate change into their forest plan revisions using the new 2012 Planning Rule, and the TACCIMO team, along with other FS and partner scientists, are supporting these efforts and assisting in interpreting relevant best available scientific information. Members of the TACCIMO team have attended forest planning meetings and presented at public fora on the forest plan revision for the Francis Marion.
Figure 1: A diagram illustrating the three phases of the Forest Plan Revision process
Phase 1: Assessment Draft Assessment Development The assessment for a forest plan revision is designed to rapidly evaluate existing information about relevant ecological, economic, and social conditions and trends, and their context within the broader landscape. TACCIMO reports capturing findings from current and relevant climate change scientific literature was reviewed by the Francis Marion planning team and integrated into the assessment phase of the plan revision process. The planning team also used TACCIMO summaries developed from the Climate Change Tree Atlas to look at future suitable habitat for different tree species, and the Sea Level Rise Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) model to examine sea level rise. The draft assessment for the Francis Marion is open for review and input until late 2014.
A small sample of key findings on climate change that were integrated into the Francis Marion assessment include:
Sea level rise and extreme weather - The rate of sea level rise is expected to increase over the next century, as is the potential for severe storms such as hurricanes. Together, these changes could have large consequences for the coastal ecosystems that occur where the FMNF borders the Atlantic Ocean. Ecosystems like maritime forests, saltwater marshes, and tidally influenced riparian zones may be particularly threatened. Sea level rise will also increase the potential for saltwater intrusion into coastal freshwater tables, which could affect groundwater resources.
Synergy between adaptation and restoration goals - Some plant and animal species are expected to do better than others as the climate changes. For example, longleaf pine ecosystems tend to be more tolerant of stressors such as drought, insects, and wind damage, and science suggests that they may be well-suited to future conditions. An ongoing effort on the Francis Marion is restoring native ecosystems and species, including longleaf pine ecosystems which were once dominant across the southeastern U.S. but have lost ground to other species such as loblolly pine. In this situation, forest restoration efforts could have the added benefit of making the forests on the FMNF more resilient to changing climate.
Invasive Species - With a changing climate, invasive species may outcompete or negatively affect native species. Certain invasive plant species such as cogongrass are able to tolerate a wide range of harsh conditions, and have the potential to increase on the FMNF, which could alter entire forest ecosystems. The FMNF is located close to a major harbor that gets shipping traffic from around the world, so the potential for new introductions is also high.
Draft Preliminary Need to Change The Draft Preliminary Need to Change represents the transition from the assessment to the forest plan development phase. It evaluates the existing forest plan in light of new scientific information, laws, and policies, and identifies plan directions that “need to change.” Comments and questions on the draft are being accepted.
Notably, there is no direction for responding to climate change in the 1996 forest management plan for the Francis Marion. Based on assessment findings derived from TACCIMO, the FMNF planning team collaborated with Forest Service and partner scientists to integrate climate change considerations as they developed the ‘need to change’ document.
Sea level rise - The assessment identified current and projected sea level rise that is affecting the FMNF, yet the 1996 forest management plan does not mention this. The ‘need to change’ states that “Forest plan management direction is needed for ecological systems that are in the margin of change due to rising waters, as well as recreation developments and the risks associated with potential new development in the margin of change.” Management and/or monitoring actions to address this point will be included in the forest plan revision.
Longleaf pine restoration - The 1996 forest management plan does place importance on restoring longleaf pine ecosystems. However, in light of new estimates of their historical distribution and their expected resilience to climate changes and disturbances, the ‘need for change ‘ states: “Objectives need to be revised to increase the amount of maintenance or restoration of longleaf pine woodlands, flatwoods, and savannas for at least 50 percent or more of land with the ecological potential to support those ecosystems. Longleaf pine needs to be promoted over loblolly pine to increase sustainability of pine forests to severe wind and hurricane damage.”
Phase 2: Developing the forest plan Identifying Management Strategies The summary of Proposed Management Strategies builds on previous documents to outline some of the actions that may be included in a revised forest plan for the Francis Marion. Many proposed strategies in this document were not necessarily developed as direct responses to climate changes, but were reviewed by the planning team with climate change information in mind, and may have the indirect benefit of making forests more resilient to changes. However, TACCIMO did provide information to deliberately and directly include climate change response strategies in the document’s discussions on forest health and adaptive management, based on the integrated interpretation of resource area experts. This document is under discussion and open for public input.
Strategies proposed primarily to help maintain forest health on the FMNF under climate change include the following:
Reduce vulnerability by maintaining and restoring resilient native ecosystems, including streams and longleaf pine;
Enhance adaptation of species by reducing the effects of serious disturbances where possible and taking advantage of disruptions to convert to more resilient and desirable ecosystems;
Use preventive measures for reducing opportunities for forest pests;
Lessen greenhouse gas emissions by reducing carbon loss from hurricanes and restoring species such as longleaf pine that have higher carbon sequestration rates;
Maintain, improve and restore the diversity within stands to be ecologically sustainable;
Increase resilience of forests to both climate change and hurricane damage through landscape structural diversity;
Plant new trees and improve forest health through thinnings and prescribed burning to increase carbon for the future;
Address ecological systems that are in the margin of change due to rising waters, as well as, recreation developments and the risks associated with potential new development in the margin of change;
Address speedy salvage, road repairs or other ecological damages after major disturbances by tornados, hurricanes, wildfire, floods or drought;
Collaborate with partners and local municipalities to monitor the loss of marshlands, the effects of sea level rise on vegetation, saltwater intrusion, stream water temperatures and flows, and tidal forests and bald cypress for effects of increasing salinity.
Phase 3: Monitoring Integrating Multi-scale Monitoring in Plan Development The FMNF is developing a process for adaptive management and multi-scale monitoring that will play a key role in integrating climate change into the forest plan. Monitoring is essential for detecting changes in a timely manner and being able to respond to them effectively. For example, climate change leads to an increased risk of an invasive species being introduced on the forest. But forest managers have no way of knowing where or when exactly that introduction will happen. By setting up a monitoring strategy that accounts for anticipated climate impacts, the forest will be better able to adjust management approaches quickly to account for changes in the environment.
Currently, TACCIMO is supporting the process to develop a cohesive monitoring strategy along with plan revision team members, RO monitoring staff and South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative staff. They are collecting ideas on monitoring needs from sub-teams of people responsible for specific sections of the forest plan revision. All ideas are being compiled into a table that describes ecosystem drivers, stressors, indicators of those stressors, current monitoring efforts, and possible changes. Alerts are being developed for each monitoring indicator, that would incite further evaluation if conditions change. The alerts are paired with adaptive management strategies that will help the forest identify potential solutions when problems arise. Collectively, this information will represent the forest monitoring strategy, which closes the adaptive management cycle. For more information on these efforts, see Section 2.8 of the Proposed Management Strategies
Figure 2: The timeline for the Frances Marion National Forest Plan Revision.