Research Roundup

Overviews of the climate change work happening at Forest Service research stations.
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Technology development to support a national early warning system for environmental threats
Southern Research Station
Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center

Scientists and collaborators have launched the ForWarn tool, the strategic research component of the national early warning system, to help natural resource managers rapidly detect, identify, and respond to unexpected changes in the nation's forests. ForWarn produces maps showing potential forest disturbance across the conterminous United States at 231-meter resolution every 8 days, based on images obtained over the preceding 24-day analysis window. For more please see ForWarn.

Contact: William Hargrove
Understanding soil and watershed hydrology
Southern Research Station
Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center

Understanding the impact of soil properties on forest hydrology and water quality can offer valuable information to researchers and water resource managers in addressing water shortages during droughts. Scientists examined forest hydrology and water quality patterns in North Carolina piedmont headwater watersheds with different geologic features and soil characteristics, Carolina Slate Belt (CSB) and Triassic Basin (TB), and offered reference or baseline data for area watershed planning.

Contact: Johnny Boggs
Carbon Implications of Poplar Energy Crops Throughout the Energy Supply Chain
Northern Research Station
Forest Products Laboratory

Woody production systems and conversion technologies are needed to: maintain healthy forests and ecosystems, create high paying manufacturing jobs, and meet local/regional energy demands. Poplars are dedicated energy crops that can be strategically placed in the landscape to conserve soil and water, recycle nutrients, and sequester carbon. However, key environmental and economic uncertainties preclude broad-scale production of biofuels/bioproducts from poplar wood. Therefore, building on decades of research conducted at our Institute and throughout the region, we are evaluating the fate of carbon in soils and woody biomass, soil greenhouse gas emissions, and conversion efficiency barriers throughout the energy supply chain.

Contact: Ronald Zalesny
Mapping projected change in global and North America vegetation
Pacific Northwest Research Station

The MC1 model is routinely used in North America to predict vegetation impacts associated with climate-change projections to the year 2100, as well as associated changes to ecosystem services such as water availability and carbon sequestration. The MC1 user community spans a large number of international, federal, state, local, and nongovernmental organizations. Now, the most commonly requested summary map products from the global and North American MC1 simulations are available for viewing and download on the Databasin website.

John Kim
Genes for climate tolerance in Douglas-fir and big sagebrush
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Rocky Mountain Research Station

Many forest and range plants are finely attuned to their local climate, making it necessary to match seed sources with planting locations. From ecological and economic perspectives, the adaptability of the plants is critical. Forest Service and university geneticists are working to identify genes that enable certain trees and plants to tolerate and adapt to climatic extremes. This knowledge will enable nursery managers to deliver locally adapted, genetically appropriate materials for restoration even as the climate changes.

Contact: Rich Cronn
Changing climates present new threats to the conservation of forest genetic resources
Pacific Northwest Research Station

As climates change, populations of native trees may become maladapted and genetic diversity may be lost. This research highlights the importance of identifying species and populations that are vulnerable to climate change and other threats. It also identifies steps that may help protect and conserve those species and populations.

Contact: Brad St. Clair
Yellow cedar continues uphill retreat
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Continuing research on yellow-cedar populations in southeast Alaska has found many dead trees at lower elevations and live trees most common at mid elevations. Regeneration peaked at higher elevations. These trends are consistent with the understanding that the presence of spring snow is a primary factor in the health and successful regeneration of yellowcedar. This knowledge is guiding decisions about where to favor this valuable tree through planting and thinning.

Contact: Paul Hennon
David D'Amore
Arctic fire releases large amounts of stored carbon to the atmosphere
Pacific Northwest Research Station

Arctic tundra stores large amounts of carbon in cool wet soil that is hundreds to thousands of years old. Fire has been largely absent from this biome for thousands of years, but its frequency and extent are increasing, probably in response to climate warming. The Anaktuvuk River Fire in 2007 burned 645 square miles of Alaska’s Arctic slope, making it the largest fire on record for the tundra biome and doubling the cumulative area burned since 1950. Research on this fire is being used to implement measurement techniques that estimate carbon loss in tundra areas. It is also being used by scientists who are initiating studies on the effect of fire disturbance on tree migration into the Arctic.

NetMap module - climate change planning at the watershed level
Pacific Northwest Research Station
Project website:

The effects of climate change differ depending on local conditions such as topography and aspect, making it difficult for natural resource managers and decisionmakers to plan ahead. To remove some of the guesswork, researchers developed NetMap, a tool to help users determine where processes that influence aquatic ecosystems are likely to occur in a particular landscape. A feature of NetMap added in 2011 lets users scale likely climate-change impacts to specific watersheds in national forests of the Pacific Northwest. These climate impacts include changes in the pattern and amount of streamflow, water temperatures, and wildfire frequency and magnitude. Results from this analysis can be exported to Google Earth to show where changes are most likely to occur.

Contact: Gordon Reeves
Science-management partnership facilitates management adapted to climate change
Pacific Northwest Research Station

As part of an agency-wide effort, scientists have been collaborating with national forest managers and other agencies to ensure that climate change will be addressed effectively on federal land. Through a science-management partnership, they have developed scientific principles, processes, and tools for communicating about climate science, conducting assessments of the vulnerability of natural resources to climate change, and developing adaptation strategies and tactics that ensure sustainability of resources in a warmer climate.

Contact: David Peterson

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