Research Roundup

Overviews of the climate change work happening at Forest Service research stations.
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Watering the Forests for the Trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Project website: http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg

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.

Contact: Gordon Grant
Evaluating landscape level sensitivity to changing peak and low streamflow regimes
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Project website: http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg

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.

Contact: Gordon Grant
Coupling snowpack and groundwater dynamics to interpret historical streamflow trends in the western United States
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Project website: http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg

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.

Contact: Gordon Grant
Climate change and peak flows: Knowledge-to-action to help managers address impacts on streamflow dynamics and aquatic habitat
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Project website: http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg

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.

Contact: Gordon Grant
Use of Natural Areas for Monitoring Long-term Effects of Climate Change
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Project website: http://www.fsl.orst.edu/rna/

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.

Contact: Todd M. Wilson
Forestry, Bioenergy, Greenhouse Gas and Land Use Economic and Biophysical Model Development and Analysis
Pacific Northwest Research Station

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Economics Branch (CEB) analyzes cost-effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, both in the U.S. and internationally. EPA relies on the Forest and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model with Greenhouse Gas (FASOM-GHG) model for analysis of GHG mitigation from the U.S. forest, agriculture and bioenergy sectors. This project will involve model development, results interpretation, testing, analyses, and documentation associated with the forestry and bioenergy sectors and related land use in the FASOM-GHG. The overarching objectives of the project are to make the forest sector portion more flexible, able to simulate a broader range of alternative bioenergy and CO2 sequestration policies, and to simplify the basic model code to reduce compilation and run time.

Contact: David Seesholtz
Climate change and management interactions for forests in the central Oregon Cascades
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Computer simulation models are often used to project vegetation responses to changing CO2 (carbon dioxide) and climate. We developed a process that links the mechanistic power of dynamic global vegetation models with the detailed vegetation dynamics of state-and-transition models to project local vegetation shifts driven by projected climate change. We applied our approach to central Oregon (USA) ecosystems using three climate change scenarios to assess potential future changes in species composition and community structure.

Contact: Miles Hemstrom
Jessica Halofsky
Climate change and forest management interactions in southwestern Oregon
Pacific Northwest Research Station

This project will connect state and transition models developed as a part of the Integrated Landscape Assessment Project with Dynamic Global Vegetation Model outputs for Southwestern Oregon. The objective is to develop a set of vegetation modeling tools that can be used by local land managers and collaborative groups to examine potential forest management scenarios and interactions with possible climate change impacts.

Contact: Emilie Henderson
Climate change and Greater Sage-grouse habitat interactions in southeastern Oregon
Pacific Northwest Research Station

This project will connect state and transition models developed as a part of the Integrated Landscape Assessment Project with Dynamic Global Vegetation Model outputs for Southeastern Oregon. The objective is to develop a set of vegetation modeling tools that can be used by local land managers and collaborative groups to examine potential rangeland management scenarios and interactions with possible climate change impacts.

Contact: Megan Creutzberg
Climate change and forest management effects in the Lower Joseph project area, northeastern Oregon
Pacific Northwest Research Station

This project will use climate-connected state and transition models developed as a part of the Integrated Landscape Assessment Project to assist with cumulative effects analysis of alternative management scenarios for the Lower Joseph project area in the Blue Mountains of Northeast Oregon. The objective is to use the climate-connected state and transition models to evaluate alternative scenarios proposed by local land managers and collaborative groups given possible climate change impacts.

Contact: Miles Hemstrom

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