Research Roundup

Overviews of the climate change work happening at Forest Service research stations.
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Projecting timing of budburst under different winter conditions
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Many plant species and different populations within species have evolved so that their spring budburst coincides with environmental conditions conducive to growth. Climate change has the potential to alter the signals that plants use, thereby changing the timing of budburst. Station scientists developed a model to predict the timing of budburst for populations of Douglas-fir, the major tree species in northwest forests. It can be used to help assess climate impacts on scales ranging from individual trees to the entire range of coast Douglas-fir.

Contact: Peter Gould
Synthesis of tree responses to climate change - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Several decades of research exist on the potential responses of trees and forests to climate-related stresses. Researchers synthesized more than 400 research articles addressing physiological and ecological responses of trees and forests to variations in climate and associated stresses and disturbance agents. Although based on an international body of research, the synthesis highlights potential climate changes and responses from species and ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. It is organized around key themes: elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, temperature, precipitation, fire, pests, and their interactions, and discusses vulnerabilities and risks from a forestry management perspective. The authors identify options for silvicultural and genetic approaches to managing for forest adaptation.

Contact: Paul D. Anderson
Understanding physical processes of tree development and tree response to warmer climate
Pacific Northwest Research Station

A tree undergoes many physical changes during its life. Leaf physiology, wood structure, mechanical properties, reproductive ability, and interactions with herbivores and pathogens are just some of the features that change as a seedling grows to maturity. Many of these changes are presumed to allow trees to acclimate to the environment and endure for millennia. This research endeavors to understand these processes in order to anticipate tree response to warmer climates.

Contact: Rick Meinzer
Warmer winters likely to expand range of dwarf mistletoe
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Climate is a key control that regulates where tree species and their pathogens can survive. By analyzing forest inventory data, scientists found that hemlock dwarf mistletoe, a leading disease agent for western hemlock, is restricted to the warmer southerly and low elevation forests in Alaska. The absence of dwarf mistletoe in some hemlock forests may be attributed to shorter growing seasons or suggest that snow limits dwarf mistletoe's reproductive dispersal. Both western hemlock and hemlock dwarf mistletoe are projected to benefit from a warmer, less snowy climate. Scientists are projecting the potential distributions of both the tree and disease agent to affect the health of western hemlock forests during the next century in Alaska.

Contact: Paul Hennon
Mycorrhizal fungi and postfire establishment of tree seedlings
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Understanding the complex mechanisms controlling treeline advance or retreat has important implications for projecting ecosystem responses global environmental change. A warming climate not only promotes growth of seedlings and mature trees; it also enhances disturbances, such as fire that leads to further seedling establishment. Researchers examined how the availability of fungal inoculum for the formation of critical mycorrhizas influenced postfire tree seedling establishment.

Monitoring climate-related changes in Alaska
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Researchers from the PNW Research Station and the Department of the Interior examined options for monitoring ecoregional-level change in northern latitudes. Climate-related changes to Alaska’s forests that could be monitored include changes in abundance and rarity of vascular plants, wildlife habitat, invasive species, fire risk, fire effects, postfire succession, impacts on forest growth and mortality from insects and diseases, and alterations in carbon pools and fluxes. Although managers of individual parks and refuges often have specific needs that require more targeted monitoring, regional level monitoring can help provide context for changes observed within smaller areas.

Contact: Tara Barrett
Cumulative Effects of Succession, Management, and Disturbance on Forest Landscapes
Northern Research Station

For more than 15 years we have worked together with collaborators from other institutions to develop and apply methods to forecast landscape-scale forest change in response to tree growth and species succession as well as disturbance from timber harvest and fire. Much of this work has utilized the LANDIS model to forecast changes in forest conditions for management and disturbance scenarios applied. We have demonstrated the capabilities of these tools to analyze the cumulative effects of management scenarios applied to real forest landscapes in Indiana and Missouri.

Contact: Stephen Shifley
Linking Population, Ecosystem, Landscape, and Climate Models to Evaluate Climate Adaptation Strategies
Northern Research Station

Landscape change will result from interactions among climate change; land use and management; and population, ecosystem, and landscape processes. Approaches to forecasting landscape change have commonly addressed a subset of these factors but rarely have they all be considered. Land managers and planners need knowledge of how these factors will interact and modeling tools to assess the effects of mitigation strategies.

Contact: Frank Thompson
Climate change influences on distributions of sculpin in western Montana
Southern Research Station

Sculpin are ecologically important, small-bodied fishes that live on the bottom of cold- and coolwater streams, rivers, and lakes. They are often the most abundant fish in small streams. We studied distributions of two sculpin species in relation to summer stream temperatures since 2006 and obtained historical distribution and temperature data extending back much farther. Water temperature is an important factor in determining summer distributions of sculpins in the study area, and we are exploring how stream warming influences sculpin distributions.

Contact: Susan B. Adams
Adapting to Climate Change in Olympic National Forest
Pacific Northwest Research Station

The Climate Change Adaptation Case Study at Olympic National Forest, with Olympic National Park as a partner, had the objective of determining how to adapt management of federal lands on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, to climate change. The case study process involved science-based sensitivity assessments, review of management activities and constraints, and adaptation workshops in each of four focus areas (hydrology and roads, vegetation, wildlife, and fisheries). The process produced concrete adaptation options for Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park, and illustrated the utility of place-based vulnerability assessment and scientist-manager workshops in adapting to climate change.

Contact: Dave Peterson

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