The San Juan ULTRA is a long-term network and research site established in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2009 by the USDA Forest Service and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce knowledge on urban areas and to support policy, education, and local initiatives in order to improve the quality-of-life and environmental conditions in the city. San Juan ULTRA is a collaborative research network composed of multiple academic institutions, public agencies, non-profit partners, and community leaders, which seeks to conduct and support research about the city of San Juan as a social-ecological system (SES). A SES lens looks at the complex human-nature interactions, taking into consideration multiple spatial and temporal scales, and how these systems can adapt and be sustainable in the face of future changes, such as climate change.
Hurricanes are important drivers of periodic disturbances on tropical forests of the Luquillo Mountains, and this type of disturbance is expected to increase with climate change. This long-term experiment is designed to: 1) examine the effect of canopy disturbance (e.g., increasing light levels, temperature, moisture, etc.) vs. increased detrital inputs on rates of germination, growth, survival, detritus processing, nutrient cycling, soil conditions, and trophic structure, and 2) to increase the frequency of simulated hurricane effects above background levels to once every six to ten years.
This project is working to (1) evaluate the vulnerability of Puerto Rico’s forests to projected increases in temperature; (2) improve our understanding of global warming effects on tropical forest carbon (C) and nutrient cycling; and (3) provide valuable forest response information to land managers, policy makers, and global climate modeling efforts.
This project uses a temperature gradient spanning 5 degrees Celsius to perform studies on responses to warming in a tropical system, including: soil carbon response, soil microbial community response, and carbon stock and flux responses for above and below ground carbon pools and fluxes. These studies take place in the Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest and Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, across an area where canopy vegetation, soil type, soil moisture, and successional history are all relatively constant.
This project uses a model study system across the North Hilo-Hamakua Districts of Hawaii Island to model climate change and invasive species impacts on hydrological yield of 86 streams, and the potential response of yield to management including watershed restoration (invasive plant removal) and protection (fencing).
Across this system, total annual rainfall ranges from just under 2000mm per year to over 6000mm per year, but temperature, soils, and vegetation vary minimally. This project integrates hydrological modeling with spatial data on stream habitat condition (measured for the project area), critical habitat for plants and animals, ownership type and conservation status, cost of management, and management efficacy in order to create a watershed decision support tool (WDST). This tool will forecast: 1) climate change and invasive plant effects on stream flow; 2) threat management effects on stream flow; and 3) costs and hydrological benefits of management.
Maps of forest species-climate profiles were developed to help predict how forests, plant communities, and species may change on the landscape in response to climate change. Each species map depicts a ‘viability score’, which is an index on the interval zero to one that indicates how consistent the climate at a location is with the contemporary occurrence of a species. A low score at a given point in time or space indicates that the species does not occur (or very rarely occurs) in climates like those depicted at that location.
These maps provide information on where suitable future climate may be located for specific tree species under different climate scenarios.
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 plans.
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.
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.
University Northern Arizona, USFS Southwestern Region
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.
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.
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).