Research Roundup

Overviews of the climate change work happening at Forest Service research stations.
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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
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
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.

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