The Lambert Restoration Project takes place on 2,667 acres encompassing the Lambert Run watershed and two small adjacent watersheds. In addition to the Lambert Run Strip coal mine, the project area contains approximately 275 acres of legacy coal mine lands (reclaimed according to surface mining laws in the 1970s). The project is located in Randolph County, West Virginia and is part of larger restoration project to restore a key red spruce corridor on the landscape. For this umbrella project, the Monongahela National Forest has collaborated with a number of partners and funders to achieve this work in Lambert Run and the larger Mower Tract. For a complete list of these partnerships, please see Page 15 of the Mower Tract Ecological Restoration Final Report. Most recently, internal Forest Service funding has contributed to this project through the Joint Chief’s Initiative.
Reclamation law required the mining company to return the strip mine back to its approximate original contour and to control soil erosion. The contemporary result is large areas of heavily compacted soil with poor water infiltration, where aggressive non-native seeded grasses, non-native conifer plantations, and sphagnum moss are among the few plants that can survive these conditions. For decades, these areas have remained in a condition termed "arrested succession", meaning native species are unable to establish as part of a normal successional process. In order to restore more natural ecosystem functions, the Monongahela National Forest and partners are taking actions to improve hydrology and soil quality, restore native tree and plant species, and provide wildlife habitat.
On a broader landscape scale, another restoration effort focused on red spruce restoration is underway. Red spruce forests exist in the highest elevations of the Allegheny Mountains as relicts from a cooler climate. These forests covered an estimated 1 million acres in West Virginia in the early 1900s. The combined effects of wildfire following logging, and decades of elevated acid deposition has reduced red spruce to approximately 50,000 acres, with red spruce currently rebounding successfully, especially where restoration efforts are made. In this context, the Lambert project is restoring part of a critical red spruce corridor that extends beyond MNF boundaries.
Click to see a Video on Spruce Restoration and Climate Change on the Monongahela
Climate change is expected to create additional challenges to the task of restoring ecological function in these areas, with challenges likely to intensify through the end of the century. The Monongahela National Forest teamed up with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science to evaluate how planned management actions can enhance long-term resilience to climate change, as well as identify additional adaptation tactics that can be considered for implementation.
Prior to using the Forest Adaptation Resources Workbook to consider climate change in forest management, staff from the Monongahela National Forest contributed to the development of the Central Appalachians Forest Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment (Butler et al. 2015), which provides information about a range of potential future climates and ecosystem responses. Information from the assessment describes important potential changes including:
- A regional increase of roughly 2 to 8 °F in mean annual temperature.
- Although models are less certain about the timing of precipitation changes in summer or fall, they agree on a potential decrease of up to 4 inches.
- The timing and intensity of precipitation is expected to change, with fewer rain events overall, but more volume of rain in any single event. Especially in areas like Lambert with steep topography, intensifying rain events could increase erosion.
- Forest impacts models that use projected future climate to identify changes in tree habitat and biomass have projected declines in locally-important species including red spruce, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, sugar maple, bigtooth aspen, and other native species.
These climate trends point to a future that is warmer and more variable, presenting greater stresses on boreal species like red spruce, balsam fir, and eastern hemlock. These projections were considered when evaluating management actions and developing adaptation options.