Climate Change and Forest Biodiversity: A Vulnerability Assessment and Action Plan for National Forests in Western Washington
Climate change predictions for the Pacific Northwest include overall warming, increased winter precipitation, and decreased summer precipitation, resulting in warmer, wetter winters and warmer, drier summers (Mote and Salathe 2009). The extent and duration of the regional snowpack is projected to decrease, particularly at lower elevations (Elsner et al. 2009, Mote 2003). Seasonal stream flow patterns are likely to shift to earlier spring peak flows and lower summer flows, especially for snowmelt-dominated watersheds (Barnett et al. 2005). There is a limited amount of information on climatic tolerance for many tree species and even less information on what complex interactions could result from ecosystem-wide exposure to a changing environment.
The goals of this analysis are to conduct a climate change vulnerability assessment of forest tree species, assess the vulnerability of non-forested habitats to climate change, and propose practical management actions that will work under a variety of future climate scenarios and can be implemented by the national forests in western Washington in cooperation with other land managers.
The specific objectives of this analysis are to:
- Assess the potential impacts of predicted changes in climate on both forest trees and selected vulnerable habitats: alpine and subalpine habitats, dry grasslands, and wetlands.
- Evaluate tools that have been developed to assess vulnerability and mitigate the expected stressors of a warming climate.
- Recommend actions that will improve understanding of changes taking place among tree species and non-forested habitats, maintain and increase biodiversity and increase resilience, and prepare for an uncertain future.
- Collaborate in the implementation of these actions with the two other predominant public land management agencies in western Washington: the National Park Service and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.