Idaho forest owners are asking, why am I seeing so many trees dying in my forestland? Apparently multiple tree species are afflicted, with the most extensive being Douglas-firs and grand firs, followed by ponderosa and lodgepole pines. The experts tell us the issue is lack of moisture around the trees’ root systems due to last year’s drought.
The summer issue of the Idaho Forest Owners Newsletter includes an interview about this problem with Chris Schnepf, Professor and Area Extension Educator with the University of Idaho, (and an early and frequent contributor the Climate, Forests and Woodlands Community of Practice). Chris explains that the lack of moisture stresses the trees which weakens their defenses against pests, in this case several types of destructive beetles.
So what’s a landowner in the Inland Northwest to do? According to Chris, two things – reduce the stocking to favor more drought-tolerant species, and thin. Thinning is a recommendation for a variety of forest health issues, as the removal of smaller, weaker trees results in better seeding, increased light and moisture, and improved growing conditions. The resulting healthier trees are better able to withstand the pest attacks and survive the beetles, fungal diseases, and other detrimental effects of drought. See page 12 of the newsletter for the full article.
To determine a system’s or species’ vulnerability (how susceptible it is to negative effects from changing climate conditions) to climate change, scientists consider
exposure (amount and rate of change),
sensitivity (how dependent the system or species integrity is on climate conditions) and
adaptive capacity (ability to cope with climate change by altering or adjusting something).
Assessing vulnerability is an essential part of conservation. The USGS recently released two reports and a fact sheet addressing the vulnerability of multiple ecosystems – including riparian, terrestrial, aquatic and coastal – in the southeastern United States.
The studies incorporated scientific knowledge on a wide scope of elements related to ecosystem function and sustainability, such as plant community types, disturbance regimes, biodiversity and human threats. Ecosystems examined included 19 systems “ranging from Appalachian mountain tops to Texas Canyons to Caribbean mangroves”. Ecosystems of both large and small geographic land area were considered between the two reports – both incorporating quantitative and qualitative analyses.
Key findings highlighted include:
Climate change effects are likely to be driven by interactions of multiple processes
Ecosystem responses to climate change can potentially unfavorably effect species of concern
Ecosystem fragmentation is likely to diminish the adaptive capacities of ecosystems
Often current estimates of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity are highly uncertain.
We encourage you to read the fact sheet and examine these important reports that add much to our scientific basis for prioritizing conservation and additional research.
As part of the CoCoRaHS WxTalk Webinar Series, the Northeast Regional Climate Center – which focuses on the twelve-state region from Maine to West Virginia – is presenting a webinar on “The Weather and Climate of the Northeast U.S.” on Thursday, August 4 at 1:00 p.m. eastern time. The webinar is 60 minutes long and will feature Samantha Borisoff presenting.
Numerous geographic features, such as the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean, and Appalachian Mountains, influence the Northeast region’s weather and climate. The Northeast experiences a wide variety of weather phenomena, from blizzards and hurricanes to tornadoes and floods. However, the region’s climate is changing, and you can find out how. The presentation will discuss all of this and more!
The Webinar is limited to 500 participants, so register early. The first 500 registrants will be contacted with instructions on how to attend. For those unable to get in under the limit, the Webinar will be recorded and available for viewing shortly afterwards. For more information on this and other upcoming webinars presented monthly by the CoCoRaHS WxTalk Webinar Series click here. Looks like another great climate educational opportunity!
Those in the longleaf pine range may be aware that the existing area of longleaf is but a scant remnant of its original distribution. Organizations and initiatives throughout the Southeastern US are actively working to restore and expand the acreage of this stately native tree. Variations in climate may present a new challenge to this effort, as USDA Forest Service scientists are currently discovering just how complex the relationship is between longleaf pine seed production and climate.
The researchers studied longleaf pine at a wide variety of sites (different elevations, soil types, climates) across the Southeast, and report that across all the sites, moderate climate conditions appear to promote cone production. They caution, however that “many interactive factors are involved in controlling cone production”. We encourage you to read the original communications article and full research paper for a greater understanding.
You’re probably aware that this year the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating 100 years of protecting and managing natural treasures across the country for our exploration, enjoyment, education and reverence. More than 84 million acres of widely varying ecosystems across all 50 states and more, are included in the National Park System.
National park visitation is expected to increase with a warming climate, as the “shoulder season” extends, allowing more people more time for camping, hiking, lodging and viewing these incomparable sites of natural splendor — which we feel assured will forever remain “unimpaired”. However, in the same way that our private forests and farms are vulnerable to climate change impacts, our 59 national parks (and over 350 other monuments and vital sites of American natural history and culture) are at risk.
We know what great work they do as we have seen their webinars, read their reports, participated in one of their online adaptation trainings, and shared their research-based knowledge with our readers. A good chunk of the country is covered by their Climate Change Response Framework which “provides an integrated set of tools, partnerships, and actions to support climate-informed conservation and forest management”. Some of the most productive and innovative work related to climate and natural resource management is being done by NIACS. Check them out!
Just today I came across this report from the Pinchot Institute for Conservation titled “Pennsylvania’s Forests: How they are changing and why we should care“. The report was published a couple years ago by Will Price and Eric Sprague, and remains timely with a lot we can learn from it. For instance did you know Pennsylvania is one of the most forested states in the nation? Yes – and some of the most intact hardwood forests in the temperate world are found there. I have long known that some of the highest quality cherry is grown there. This report brings together the entire account of what is known, what needs to be learned, and what must be done to conserve the health of and sustain the multiple forms of wealth provided by the forests of Pennsylvania. A summary page gives a good introduction to the report. While you are there, check out the #PinchotInstitute ‘s many other resources related to the conservation of forests.
Pam Knox, the Georgia State Climatologist has an excellent blog on climate and agriculture in the Southeastern US. We look to her blog to find out
the monthly outlook on climate conditions. Today’s post tells us that much of the Southeast can expect above normal temperatures in June, and a mixed precipitation outlook depending which state you are in. Keep an eye on any young plants or seedlings during the excess heat and dry periods, as this will stress them. See all Pam’s southeastern climate outlook posts here, where you can check on the upcoming hurricane season projection as well.
As drought regimes change, the ability to quantify and predict the impacts on forests and rangelands is critical to developing and implementing management actions to increase resiliency and adaptation. So write our colleagues at the USDA Forest Service in their recently released report Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States: A comprehensive science synthesis. This peer-reviewed publication, a collaborative effort of 77 scientists, establishes a comprehensive baseline of available data that land managers can use to test how well their efforts to improve drought resilience and adaptation practices are working nationwide.
As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said upon announcing the report’s release “This report confirms what we are seeing, that every region of the country is impacted by the direct and indirect effects of drought conditions and volatile weather patterns.” Well, we knew that, didn’t we? The critical thing is to know how the various forest (and rangeland) processes will respond, allowing us insight into building resiliency. Key findings in the report include:
Drought projections suggest that some regions of the U.S. will become drier and that most will have more extreme variations in precipitation.
Even if current drought patterns remained unchanged, warmer temperatures will amplify drought effects.
Drought and warmer temperatures may increase risks of large-scale insect outbreaks and larger wildfires, especially in the western U.S.
Drought and warmer temperature may accelerate tree and shrub death, changing habitats and ecosystems in favor of drought-tolerant species.
Forest-based products and values – such as timber, water, habitat and recreation – may be negatively impacted.
Forest and rangeland managers can mitigate some of these impacts and build resiliency in forests through appropriate management actions.
Extension specialists and agents from across the state are providing the science-based content and several articles have posted already. We expect that a lot of this valuable information is surely to be of interest beyond Oregon.