New Report: Climate Change and U.S. National Forests

“Implications of Climate Change for Conservation, Restoration and
Management of National Forest Lands”

I am very pleased to pass along notice of a noteworthy new summary
study on the current state of research on climate change and national
forests in the US.  An excerpt from the executive summary is below.

Web page:

Report download:

The principal author is Rick Brown, and the report is published by
Defenders of Wildlife and the National Forest Restoration Collaborative.

“Before joining Defenders of Wildlife, Rick worked on national forest
management issues for the National Wildlife Federation.  Prior to
that, he was a biologist on the Mount Hood National Forest in
Oregon, and started his conservation career with the Oregon Rare
and Endangered Plant Project.”

[excerpts from the Executive Summary]

Forests are not the solution to climate change, but they can make
important contributions. They will be most effective in mitigating
emissions in the near term (the next decade or two), which climate
scientists have identifed as a crucial period if we are to avoid
potentially catastrophic changes in climate […]

A heavily promoted option for storing carbon involves intensive,
short-rotation forest management to produce long-lived wood
products. Studies consistently show, however, that due to the
inevitable ineffciencies of converting trees to wood products, this
approach will store less carbon than simply letting the forest grow.

Factoring in losses of carbon from the conversion of mature and old-
growth forests, which is how virtually all managed forests begin,
shows this option to be even less favorable. Substituting wood for
more energy-intensive materials such as concrete might be
beneficial, but the benefits of such substitution cannot be measured
reliably, and should not be presumed without effective public
policies to ensure that substitution occurs. Any accounting of
forest carbon needs to quantify all the various component carbon
pools—live trees, other vegetation, dead trees (coarse, woody debris
and snags), forest foor, and mineral soil—and the fluxes of carbon
to and from these pools […]

Conventional notions of restoration to presumed “presettlement”
conditions will become increasingly dubious as climate changes. In
the near term, restoration treatments such as those intended to
improve fire and drought resilience in dry forest landscapes are also
consistent with preparing for warmer and drier conditions and
increased likelihood of fires and insect outbreaks. Strategies for
conserving biological diversity will need to be modifed to
incorporate consideration of climate change, such as reconsidering
which species may be of greatest concern, or size, number, and
location of protected areas.

However, most of what needs to be done soon is what we’ve known we
need to do for a long time: reducing habitat fragmentation,
increasing populations of at-risk species, and controlling invasive
species. Conservation strategies need to recognize that species can
be expected to move and adapt independently as climate changes, and
that novel ecosystems will arise.

Some of the greatest challenges in responding to the threats of
climate change may arise from the disconnect between the nature and
pace of those threats and the governmental and social institutions
available to address them. Although human-caused changes in climate
are remarkably fast by climatological standards, they are slow
compared to budgeting, planning, and electoral cycles. The
fragmented, “stove-piped” approaches typical of natural resource
management will need to be overcome if the ecologically cross-
cutting challenges of climate change are to be met.


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