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Coast Redwoods and Climate Change

Created: 1/27/2015 - Updated: 5/09/2019

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Summary

A workshop on coast redwoods and climate change was held in the fall of 2013. This workshop, put on by the Geos Institute, Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Humboldt Chapter, California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA LCC), and North Pacific LCC, was attended by a diverse group of regional experts, researchers, and managers from industry, agencies, universities, tribes, NGOs, and local communities. Workshop participants discussed the numerous stressors to redwoods ecosystems, including climate change. Further discussions included approaches to managing coast redwoods ecosystems for resilience, resistance, and transition over the coming century. A suite of initial management recommendations was developed, as was a list of information needs and potential next steps. A report from this effort reviews the current status of redwoods throughout their range, climate change projections for this iconic ecosystem, and recommended actions based on input from workshop participants.

Background

Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and their many associated species create an iconic ecosystem, yet the impacts of stressors, including a variety of land use practices and climate change, threaten their continued persistence on the landscape. Past harvest practices, development, and forest fragmentation have created a management legacy that greatly influences redwood distribution, age class, ecosystem function, and forest composition. Accelerating climate change will further shape these important forests over time. The interactions among past management, ongoing stressors, and climate change are complex, yet together they will determine overall persistence probabilities and future management options.

This project included the following components:

  1. An assessment of current status and climate change risk for Coast Redwoods throughout their range;
  2. A workshop held on September 6-7, 2013; 
  3. A field trip to Redwoods National and State Parks to learn about different restoration efforts and techniques; and
  4. A final report that provides a detailed overview of current status, climate change projections, stressors to redwoods ecosystems, recommended adaptation strategies, and information needs.  

This collaborative effort brought together 30 participants with expertise in redwood ecosystems from diverse backgrounds to:

  1. Evaluate the leading science on stressors to redwoods, including climate change; and
  2. Identify and prioritize adaptation strategies for increasing the resilience of redwoods in the face of climate change.

Implementation

We conducted a review of the relevant science on climate change, providing workshop participants with information on current conditions, ongoing change, and expected future trends. We also discussed how existing stressors interact with climate change to exacerbate impacts to redwood forest species and ecosystem function. Finally, we weighed different approaches to managing redwoods for persistence and collectively developed recommendations for best practices and information needs. The science review, information from participants, and results of their brainstorming efforts are summarized in the final report.

We talked at length about the need to plan for resistance (i.e. the ability of a system to withstand impacts without major change in plant and wildlife communities), resilience (i.e. the ability of a system to recover after perturbations, such as fire or drought), and transition (i.e. the change from one type of system to another in response to climate change and/or other factors) throughout the redwoods ecoregion. Most managers and researchers agreed that management strategies for coast redwoods should focus primarily on resilience at this time. Redwoods are very long lived, and redwood ecosystems can potentially persist for hundreds of years, even if reestablishment becomes unsupported by the changing climate. As these forests are impacted by natural disturbance and increasing variability in climate associated with climate change, resilience will become vital for continued persistence.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Workshop participants recommended four primary approaches to increasing resilience in redwoods ecosystems. These included:

  1. restoring to conditions and structure resembling those of historic old-growth forests;
  2. improving connectivity;
  3. reducing stressors; and 
  4. managing at a range-wide scale.

In additional to these four strategies, the group identified numerous ongoing stressors, many additional adaptation strategies, and a suite of information and research needs to enhance the management of this iconic ecosystem. More information can be found in the final report. 

Status

Submitted by project lead. Reviewed and edited by CAKE Content Editor

Citation

Koopman, M. (2015). Coast Redwoods and Climate Change. Ed. Rachel M. Gregg [Case study on a project of the Geos Institute and partners]. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/coast-redwoods-and-climate-change (Last updated January 2015)

Project Contacts

Email Address: 
Position Title: 
Climate Change Scientist
Organization: 

The GEOS Institute is a nonprofit, science-based organization dedicated to helping both human and natural communities predict and prepare for a changing climate. To this end, the Geos Institute applies the best available science to natural resource conservation issues through its scientific publications and its ability to link respected scientists to decision makers.

The CA LCC is a management-science partnership created to inform and promote integrated science, natural resource management and conservation to address impacts of climate change and other stressors within and across ecosystems.

The NPLCC is one of 22 LCCs established by the Department of Interior. The North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative is a self-directed partnership between federal agencies, states, Tribes/First Nations, non-governmental organizations, universities, and other entities to collaboratively define science needs and jointly address broad-scale conservation issues, such as climate change.

Keywords

Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Erosion
Fire
Habitat extent
Precipitation
Species of concern
Climate Type: 
Temperate
Timeframe: 
1-3 years
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Reduce non-climate stressors
Capacity Building
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Host adaptation training or planning workshop
Create stakeholder engagement processes to develop and implement adaptation strategies
Sociopolitical Setting: 
Rural
Effort Stage: 
Completed

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