Forest Health Protection and Global Climate Change
The Forest Service strategy for dealing with climate change is based on 20 years of targeted research and a century of science and management experience on public and private forest land. As a result, the Agency has highly skilled and experienced land managers, internationally recognized climate scientists, and a body of peer-reviewed scientific information for developing responses to climate change. The Forest Service strategy includes:
- Helping forests adapt to climate change
- Managing forests to increase the carbon dioxide they capture and store
- Using forest products to reduce and replace fossil fuel energy
- Maintaining a research program
- Reducing the Agency’s environmental footprint
FHP programs contribute to these efforts on climate change in the following ways:
- The technical and financial assistance FHP provides helps ensure that forests remain healthy and resilient by minimizing impacts of native and nonnative invasive insects and diseases, and invasive plants. Healthy forests which maintain their tree cover contribute to positive carbon fluxes via carbon sequestration processes. They also are a major force in the moderation of local and regional climates, as well as the conservation of high quality water and other resources. The types of activities FHP supports include pest suppression, early detection of pests, and prevention activities that limit forest pest damage.
FHP also enhances activities in the following specific areas:
- Surveying and Monitoring: FHP does substantial monitoring activities designed to determine extent and early detection of forests affected by damaging agents. FHP should increase its survey and monitoring activities in areas that are likely to be affected first by climate change. This could include high and low elevations and areas at the limit of vulnerable tree species, such as eastern limits of ponderosa pine in the Rocky Mountains or Douglas-fir in high-elevation plateaus. By increasing our monitoring efforts in places that are the first to show effects we will extend the time we have to react to events. This monitoring could include increased aerial and ground surveys and special studies of forest health.
- Genetic Conservation of Vulnerable Trees: Invasive pests and climate change effects will combine forces, creating a tremendous impact on certain tree species. For example, whitebark pine is being decimated by the combined effects of white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetle and prolonged drought. It is important to determine what germplasm is important to protect, both in situ and ex situ, to facilitate assisted tree migration efforts that involve reforestation and afforestation. FHP has already begun this work in the 5-needle pine 9-species assemblage, butternut, ash species and eastern and Carolina hemlock. More efforts will continue to identify vulnerable species and take steps to conserve this valuable germplasm.
- Risk Assessments: Building on the successful National Insect and Disease Risk Map, FHP will continue to conduct risk assessments as conditions warrant, to help land managers and decision makers ascertain where the most important areas are to conduct active management. This will include actively participating with others, including the Threat Assessment Centers and also synthesizing the effects of climate change on insect, disease and invasive plant populations.