Thin is in for Idaho forests

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.

Virginia Lake, Idaho

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. 

Thin is in for Idaho forests

Assessing climate change vulnerability in the Southeast

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.

USGS Fact Sheet 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.


Assessing climate change vulnerability in the Southeast

How is the Climate changing in the Northeast?

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.

ACIS climate data interpolated to a 5km by 5km grid. Original here. 

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!


How is the Climate changing in the Northeast?

Climate effects on Longleaf pine seed production

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.

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Longleaf pine in the Croatan National Forest, NC. Photo by S.E. Moore

Sarah Farmer, of the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station‘s (SRS) Science Communications group summarized this research in the Compass Live newsletter of the SRS.  In a series of three research-based articles by Sarah and Zoe Hoyle, they provide valuable information for longleaf pine owners and managers, on the relationship between climate and longleaf seed production, guidelines for producing high quality seed, and the cone prospects for 2016 and 2017.

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.

Climate effects on Longleaf pine seed production

National Parks and Climate Change

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.

Glacier National Park Hidden Lake Overview By Mark Wagner (Own work) [CC BY 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons
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.

Records from Glacier National Park show a vast decline in glacial area. But other changes are occurring, some much more subtle. In fact, climate change is the National Parks’ biggest challenge. Rangers and visitors are seeing fires burn longer, arrival of exotic species, sea level rise impacts, and generally more unpredictability in ecosystem response to disturbance. Similar to private landowners, the NPS is faced with managing lands with an uncertain future.  To learn more, follow Climate Central‘s summer series on Climate Change Impacts to the National Parks by Brian Kahn.

NOTE: The idea for this blog post comes from the June 2016 Newsletter of the SE Climate Science Center.
National Parks and Climate Change

Congratulations to our friends at NIACS!

This past Friday (June 10) the US Forest Service was named as the first ever recipient of the Climate Adaption Leadership Award for Natural Resources!  We at Climate, Forests and Woodlands want to give a shout out to the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS), which was specifically named as an award recipient. NIACS is part of the Northern Research Station and is incorporating climate vulnerability into over 185 forest management projects across the Midwest, Central Appalachians and the Northeast.

PA Forest_CC
Old growth hemlock in the Susquehannock State Forest, PA by Tonelli is licensed under CC by 2.0.

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!

Congratulations to our friends at NIACS!

What about Pennsylvania’s forests?

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, anPenn Forestsd 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.

What about Pennsylvania’s forests?