Climate Change and...

Research Roundup


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

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Results 1-20 of 142

1000 Years of Forest History in the Glass Creek Watershed, Eastern Sierra Nevada: Interpreting the influence of fire, climatic change, and environmental change on subalpine forest structure and composition -

PSW scientists evaluate the relative roles of fire, climate change, and volcanic eruptions as architects of forest structure and composition over the past 1000 years.


    Contact: Connie Millar


Acid Rain and Calcium Depletion -

Acid rain and other anthropogenic factors can leach calcium (Ca) from forest ecosystems and mobilize potentially toxic aluminum (Al) in soils. Considering the unique role Ca plays in the physiological response of cells to environmental stress, we propose that depletion of biological Ca would impair basic stress recognition and response systems, and predispose trees to exaggerated injury following exposure to other environmental stresses.


    Contact: Paul Schaberg


Adapting Forests to Climate Change -

This is a new area of emphasis at NRS that seeks to 1) develop a plan to increase employee awareness of climate change and expected future impacts, and (2) identify several options for achieving the goal of adapting future forests to climate change, with specific attention to including the best available science about climate change into the forest planning process. Researchers are particularly interested in working with the models and processes that are currently used in the forest planning process, and adding features to them for addressing the potential future impacts of climate change.


    Contact: Yude Pan, Richard Birdsey


Adapting to Climate Change in Olympic National Forest -

The Climate Change Adaptation Case Study at Olympic National Forest, with Olympic National Park as a partner, had the objective of determining how to adapt management of federal lands on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, to climate change. The case study process involved science-based sensitivity assessments, review of management activities and constraints, and adaptation workshops in each of four focus areas (hydrology and roads, vegetation, wildlife, and fisheries). The process produced concrete adaptation options for Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park, and illustrated the utility of place-based vulnerability assessment and scientist-manager workshops in adapting to climate change.


    Contact: Dave Peterson

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  • Project Status: Complete


Adapting to Climate Change on the Shoshone National Forest: science-management collaboration in developing management tools -

Climate change introduces a significant challenge for land managers and decision makers in the western United States. In response to that challenge, the Westwide Climate Initiative, a science-management partnership, has conducted a series of case studies on western US Forest Service National Forests to develop and evaluate a set of decision-support tools and reference materials that will assist resource managers as they incorporate climate-change considerations into decision making. We are currently conducting the 4th case study of this project on the Shoshone National Forest (Shoshone).Specifically, the objectives in the Shoshone case study were to review existing literature on climate change effects on the Shoshone landscape, to share that information through a workshop, and then to develop a vulnerability assessment that focused on select key resources.


    Contact: Linda Joyce

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  • Principal Investigator: Linda Joyce
  • Research Partners:
  • Janine Rice, CIRES Western Water Assessment, University of Colorado;
  • Bryan Armel, Shoshone National Forest;
  • Greg Bevenger, Region 4, USFS;
  • Jeff Lukas, CIRES Western Water Assessment, University of Colorado;
  • Andrew Tredennick, Colorado State University;
  • Research Outcomes:

    The literature review synthesizes current understanding of the paleo and historical climate of the Shoshone as a reference point, identifies what future climates may look like, and what the effects of future climate may be on the diversity of natural resources found on the Shoshone. This information allows for the identification of vulnerabilities and information gaps, and is serving as a resource in the forest planning process.

    Resource managers identified the need for education on climate change and to provide an opportunity for staff to discuss current scientific findings on climate change and resource management. The April 2011 science-day in Cody, Wyoming, engaged Shoshone National Forest staff, other public land and private land resource managers, and scientists from USGS, the University of Wyoming, the State of Wyoming, as well as Western Water Assessment at CIRES/University of Colorado and the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station in a discussion on the topics related to climate change, water resources, snowpack and glacial change, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, species modeling and ecosystem modeling for climate change, and the potential effects of climate change on public land, migration, recreation and tourism.

    The third component of the project is the development of a vulnerability assessment to identify potential vulnerabilities of the Shoshone to climate change. Here the Forest identified the key resources of water quantity, the Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and vegetation as important to consider. The vulnerability assessment builds on the current literature as well as the data available on the Shoshone National Forest. Results from this assessment have already been used to assist the Forest in planning monitoring, and an evaluation of potential locations for restoration projects for Yellowstone cutthroat trout habitat. Among other outcomes, we developed a customized vulnerability assessment tool for Yellowstone cutthroat trout on the Shoshone National Forest. The Shoshone hosts an important and dynamic salmonid habitat with its high elevation stream networks, lakes and ponds that may serve as future refugia for Yellowstone cutthroat trout populations.

  • Research Results:

    Rice, Janine; Tredennick, Andrew; Joyce, Linda A. 2012. Climate change on the Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming: a synthesis of past climate, climate projections, and ecosystem implications. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-264. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 60 p.

  • Project Status: Ongoing


Addressing Climate Change in the Forest Vegetation Simulator -

The Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) is a family of forest growth simulation models that allow a user to explore forest growth and yield at the stand level. This research incorporates climatic effects into FVS to produce a new extension called Climate-FVS, providing managers with a tool that allows climate change impacts to be incorporated in forest plans.


    Contact: Nicholas Crookston, Jerry Rehfeldt

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  • Principal Investigator: Nicholas Crookston

American Chestnut Restoration -

The American chestnut is a tree species of unique ecological and economic value that was virtually eliminated following a blight caused by a fungal pathogen, Cryphonectria parasitica. In order to restore this economically and ecologically valuable species, multiple approaches to decrease the virulence of the pathogen or increase the resistance of the tree have been evaluated. Climate change presents new implications for the recovery of the species, especially at its historic northern range limits.


    Contact: Paul Schaberg


Arctic fire releases large amounts of stored carbon to the atmosphere - 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.
    Contact: Teresa Hollingsworth

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  • Principal Investigator: Teresa Hollingsworth
  • Research Partners:
  • Bonanza Creek Long-Term Ecological Research Program
  • Marine Biological Laboratory
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Florida
  • USDI Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service
  • Project Status: ongoing


Aspen FACE Experiment -

The Aspen FACE (Free-Air Carbon Enrichment) Experiment is a multi-disciplinary study to assess the effects of increasing tropospheric ozone and carbon dioxide levels on the structure and function of northern forest.


    Contact: Mark Kubiske


Assessing forest carbon sequestration and water supply interactions as influenced by climate and management practices - Researchers are assessing the causal relationships between management regime or disturbance and the environmental controls of biosphere-atmosphere exchange of carbon and water. The overall objective is to measure and model the coupling effects of forest management and changing climate on carbon dioxide and water fluxes in eastern forests of the United States and China.
    Contact: Steve McNulty


Assessing forest tree risk of extinction and genetic degradation from climate change - Scientists are using spatial models of future environmental conditions to predict and map the location and quality of habitat for several hundred North American forest tree species. Known as the Forecasts of Climate-Associated Shifts in Tree Species (ForeCASTS) project, scientists are also determining where each species, within its current range, is most susceptible to extinction as a result of climate change.
    Contact: Kevin Potter

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Assessing genetic variation of forest tree species at risk - To conserve the genetic foundation tree species need to survive and adapt in the face of insect and disease infestation and climate change, forest management decisions must consider how genetic diversity is distributed across species’ ranges. Researchers are analyzing two range-wide genetic variation studies of species with large distributions: eastern hemlock, which is being decimated by an exotic insect, and ponderosa pine, a species with isolated populations of special concern given their susceptibility to climate change, development, and bark beetles.
    Contact: Kevin Potter


Assessment of disturbance impacts on U.S. forest carbon sequestration -

Researchers are estimating forest carbon lost due to hurricane and insect disturbances in order to produce more accurate estimates of carbon sequestration by U.S. forests. Equations created to estimate total forest carbon loss based on damage could be adapted in the future to project carbon loss due to any disturbance impact.


    Contact: Steve McNulty


Atmospheric Disturbance Climatology System -

Understanding the spatial and temporal patterns of climate variables throughout the region is important in developing effective land management strategies that can sustain our natural resources. This science applications and product delivery effort is helping land managers to identify when and where climate and weather related disturbances typically occur in the north central and northeastern U.S.


    Contact: Warren Heilman


Baltimore Ecosystem Study -

Studies on carbon dioxide concentration, CO2 and H2O flux, and the effects of multiple air pollutants on urban forests are being conducted in Baltimore. Urban conditions may represent possible future scenarios: elevated carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrogen deposition and elevated temperatures. A 40 m Forest Service lookout tower near Baltimore is used to conduct air quality and meteorological flux research. This is the first permanent tower to estimate carbon flux and carbon sequestration in an urban/suburban forest ecosystem. Metropolitan areas have an average tree cover of 33.4% (urban counties) and support 25% of the USA's total tree canopy cover, and their inclusion in climate models is essential for accuracy.


    Contact: John Hom


Biomass Gasification Project -

Southern forests can potentially be used as a source of renewable energy. SRS researchers are studying the conversion of forest biomass into electricity and the viability of this technology in the future.


    Contact: Les Groom


Biophysical limitations, migration potential, and climatic ranges of tree species in the interface between the boreal forest and the temperate rainforest in Alaska - Three major biomes intersect in the south-central region of Alaska: the western edge of the coastal rainforest, the southern edge of the boreal forest, and the eastern edge of the mostly treeless tundra and shrub ecosystems of southwest Alaska. Predictions of climate change responses for these ecosystems vary widely and substantial vegetation changes in this area will have large impacts on the area economy. This study will evaluate tree species� vulnerability to climate change in this area of AK.
    Contact: Tara Barrett, Robert Pattison

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  • Principal Investigator: Tara Barrett
  • Research Partners: University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Research Outcomes:

    Vulnerability assessments for individual tree species in south-central Alaska will be created based on reviews of individual species� biophysical limitations and the best available information on their current regeneration, growth and mortality. Current distributions and migration potentials will be reported and synthesized. Hypotheses for future distributions (and mechanisms of dispersal) of tree species will be developed using future climate scenarios and the synthesized information on biophysical limitations. A small scale pilot study of mountain hemlock along the rainforest to boreal gradient on the Kenai Peninsula will be used to evaluate historic growth (using tree-rings). The pilot study will be designed to provide a foundation for a larger project to more fully test future distribution hypothesis and assess the potential of assisted migration of vulnerable tree species.

  • Research Results: In the spring of 2012, the Chugach National Forest began a �Climate Vulnerability� assessment that provided a good outlet for presenting results from this project on potential migration of tree species in the south-central Alaska region. Tara Barrett and Robert Pattison participated in the workshop for this assessment at the University of Alaska Anchorage and worked with other participants to outline a chapter in the assessment focused on vegetation change in relation to climate in south-central Alaska. Researchers created a climate envelope model of the three spruce species in the region (Picea sitchensis, Picea glauca, and Picea mariana) and provided results of the model to the vegetation/wildlife group both in a written summary and in an informal presentation. A literature review on migration potential is near completion.
  • Project Status: Ongoing


Boise Aquatic Sciences Laboratory -
    Contact: Dan Isaak, Charlie Luce

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Canada Lynx -

RMRS scientists are currently developing landscape-level habitat relationships for Canada lynx. These relationships include direct links to environmental variables such as temperature and snow cover, as well as indirect links such as forest type. These models can be linked to future projections of forested landscapes, snow cover, and temperature. To predict the specific effects of climate change on lynx RMRS scientists are cooperating with other scientists in the development habitat projections.


    Contact: John Squires


Carbon Implications of Poplar Energy Crops Throughout the Energy Supply Chain - 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

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  • Research Partners:
  • Iowa State University
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Research Outcomes: We are currently: 1) evaluating soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) during establishment, 2) determining carbon sequestration in aboveground biomass during plantation development, and 3) identifying poplar genotypes with high productivity and low recalcitrance for biochemical conversion. Overall, we seek to synthesize the results within the framework of the energy supply chain. Our multidisciplinary partnership enhances long-standing collaborations and provides internal FS R&D linkages between resource management (NRS) and utilization (FPL). Direct benefits include a better understanding of carbon stocks in soils and aboveground biomass, GHG emissions, and selection of favorable poplar genotypes for biochemical conversion. Researchers and resources managers will be able to make informed policy and management decisions, and private landowners will enhance conservation of their natural resources while moving closer to job creation via woody feedstock production.
  • Research Results: Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Headlee, W.L., Hall, R.B., and Coyle, D.R. 2010. http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/36507 In: Fifth International Poplar Symposium: Poplars and Willows: From Research Models to Multipurpose Trees for a Biobased Society; September 20-25, 2010; Orvieto, Italy. p 185. Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Headlee, W.L., Hall, R.B., Donner, D.M., and Coyle, D.R. 2010. Carbon in energy plantations and hardwood forests in the Midwest, USA. In: International Energy Agency Bioenergy Conference; Sustainability Across the Supply Chain of Land-based Biomass. June 1-4, 2010; Kamloops, BC, Canada.
  • Project Status: Ongoing


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