Climate Research Juxtaposition

I noticed this study..

Climate change’s effects on temperate rain forests surprisingly complex

Science-based strategies help managers to adapt to general warming trend
Longer, warmer growing seasons associated with a changing climate are altering growing conditions in temperate rain forests, but not all plant species will be negatively affected, according to research conducted by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station.

Research featured in the January 2013 issue of Science Findings—a monthly publication of the station—reveals a complex range of forest plant responses to a warming climate.

“ Although the overall potential for growth increases as the climate warms, we found that plant species differ in their ability to adapt to these changing conditions,” said Tara Barrett, a research forester with the station who led the study.

I don’t know who would be surprised by that, nor by the fact that climate impacts on soil microflora, herbivores, and diseases and insects, (not to speak of invasives) may be unpredictable. But “science=based studies will help managers adapt..” well.. OK.

However we also see this one from the synthesis for the National Climate Assessment press release here..

For example, the agricultural report indicates increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, rising temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity. Climate change will exacerbate the stresses already occurring from weeds, insects, and disease. Increases in the incidence of extreme weather events will have an increasing influence on agricultural productivity. Over the next 25 years, the effects of climate change on agricultural production and economic outcomes for both producers and consumers in the United States are expected to be mixed, depending on regional conditions. Beyond 2050, changes are expected to include shifts in crop production areas, increases in pest control expenses, and greater disease prevalence.

The forest sector report indicates that the most rapidly visible and significant short-term effects on forest ecosystems will be caused by fire, insects, invasive species, and combinations of multiple stressors. Wildfire is expected to increase throughout the United States, causing at least a doubling of area burned by the mid-21st century.

“This report strengthens our resolve to aggressively continue treating and restoring our nation’s forests to reduce future fire impacts,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Recent fires in Colorado and other areas throughout the country serve as a grim portent for what we expect to see more of in the future. I’m confident that we have a strong plan in place to keep pace with the impacts a changing climate will have on our forests and grasslands.”

Although some regions will be affected more than others, these disturbances are likely to change the structure and function of ecosystems across millions of acres over a short period of time with detrimental effects on forest resources. Anticipated effects include increased tree mortality, changes in species assemblages, and reduced water quality.

But if we go beyond the press release, we find this..

6. Can U.S. forests adapt to changing climate?

Yes, but not without the help of forest managers and support of the American public. U.S. forests have successfully adapted to changing conditions since the 1880s when coal replaced wood as the primary domestic, industrial, and transportation fuel. Although the U.S. population has nearly tripled, cities have grown, and farming has changed dramatically since then, the area of forests in the U.S. has changed less than 5 percent and forests have continued to provide essential services. But the keys to our success for the past 130 years have been the increase in our scientific understanding of forests and the benefits they provide and public support for active management of forests to meet emerging and future needs. Some forests are already being managed using “climate smart” practices, but much more will be needed —more science and more active management—to help forests adapt successfully to climate changes in the coming 100 years. Resource managers in the USDA Forest Service are already engaged in a wide range of sustainable forest management practices (e.g., reducing hazardous fuels, maintaining structurally diverse forests) that improve resilience to future climate stresses.

Does anyone else wonder why we have so much funding going towards overlapping areas of different downscaled models, and so little to looking at the impacts of practices like oil and gas drilling? It’s really not the “corporate influence” so much as the lack of a “People’s Research Agenda” and the relative flushness of “climate change” funding IMHO.

I don’t know if you have been following the “extreme weather” issue mentioned in the press but Roger Pielke, Jr. had an interesting blog post on that and horsemeat in your lasagna here.

I also think it’s interesting how people use the term “extreme events” see the Q&A mentioned above.

What other effects are anticipated for U.S. forests?
Climate change projections suggest increased variability in temperature and precipitation. Extreme events including dry spells, sustained droughts, and heat waves, can have large effects not only on forests, but on the wildlife and fish living in them and on the people that use forests. Further, the quality of life in rural communities will be affected. For example, a community that depends on forest streams for high quality drinking water may see summertime flows reduced or need to add more pre-treatment if increased soil erosion from heavy rains muddy the water. Tourism will decline if forests die from bugs or wild fires and employment in forest products mills may decline or disappear if healthy forests disappear. Some of these impacts will extend well beyond the rural communities to touch the lives of people in cities far removed from the forests.

4 thoughts on “Climate Research Juxtaposition”

  1. I am also curious about the lack of discussion, especially here in the West, about the impact of changing weather patterns on urban and agricultural water supplies. As forests change so will their ability to collect, store and release water. Certainly such changes will have economic, social and political consequences. I would suggest water ought to be one of the major subjects considered in thinking and talking about climate change.

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  2. With tens of millions of people depending on Colorado River water, people in LA should be concerned about Colorado forests. When water becomes the new gold, we’ll see mass migrations and extreme rationing as less and less water flows through the west. Religious over-population could also factor into more water needs. Mountains need ways to replenish and hold on to their groundwater, instead of having burned hydrophobic soils. Wildfires rarely remain confined to public lands, and the reality of commercial salvage operations needs to be considered. Private salvage logging is often a major source of catastrophic erosion. Intense wildfires supply enough sediments as it is.

    Of course, I am not saying that every acre needs to be treated. We need site-specific plans and projects that will safeguard the essential ecosystem services we need as humans. Relying on faith-based preservationism will impact future generations. Yes, we’ll have short term impacts, leading to long term restoration and rehabilitation. That should not deter us from adapting to the new normal.

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