- Author: UC Berkeley Public Affairs
Reposted from UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources news
A Berkeley researcher in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management travelled to Washington, D.C., to testify on Tuesday before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change.
The hearing, titled “Out of Control: the Impact of Wildfires on Our Power Sector and the Environment,” included testimony from industry officials and specialists on a range of issues including wildfire, forest management, air quality, changing climate, and the power sector.
Brandon Collins, a forest scientist in the Stephens Lab and the Berkeley Forests group, discussed how forests historically had frequent fire of low- to moderate-severity but that a century of logging and fire suppression severely altered the landscape. He noted that the condition of contemporary forests—which now regularly experience large-scale tree mortality from such events as insect outbreaks and drought—need diverse management approaches to prevent more severe wildfires.
“Our great challenge is to manage forests such that they can tolerate fire, even under more extreme weather conditions, and still retain their fundamental character,” wrote Collins in his testimony.
Collins pointed to increases in tree density, greater amounts of dead biomass, the loss of larger trees, and increasingly homogenized vegetation patterns as factors that contribute to the greater intensity of wildfires. He said that—against a backdrop of complex land management, ownership, and societal constraints—forest managers must employ a diversified approach to forest restoration, even as climate change exacerbates many problems.
“Our current rate of forest restoration is falling woefully short of what is needed in these forests,” commented Collins. “It is time to prioritize forest health and resilience, even over other resource concerns, in order to ensure their continued provisioning of services we depend on.”
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Reposted from the UCANR Green Blog
To help California forest property owners adapt to the changing climate, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has produced a 13-page peer-reviewed paper that outlines actions owners can take to sustain their forests' value even when temperatures rise.
“Managers of forest land have always had to adapt to changing conditions – such as markets, urban encroachment, droughts and floods,” said Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor. “We wrote this paper to help forest managers better understand the evolving science of climate change and how they can help their forests adapt to the climate of the future.”
Forests are shaped by the climates in which they grow. The current rapid pace of climate change has not happened for thousands of years, according to climate scientists. Nevertheless, the authors assure forest landowners that there are land management decisions they can make to ensure the resiliency of their resources, and perhaps even improve them.
“Some trees may grow faster under the warmer conditions we experience with climate change,” Kocher said, “especially those at highest elevation where there is adequate precipitation.”
The paper details the solid scientific evidence that indicates the rise in global average temperatures over the past 100 years. The temperatures, it says, “will likely continue to rise in the future, with impacts on natural and human systems.”
The document provides specific recommendations for care of three common types of forest in California: mixed conifer, oak woodland and coastal redwood forests.
Mixed conifer forests – typically composed of white fir, sugar pine, ponderosa pine, incense cedar and California black oak – are susceptible to moisture stress caused by warmer temperatures and reduced snow and rain. The drier conditions make the trees more vulnerable to fire and insect attack.
The drought of 2010-2016 has already had a substantial impact on mixed conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada. Aerial detection surveys show that more than 102 million trees have died since 2010; more than 62 million died in 2016 alone.
The UC ANR climate change adaptation paper suggests reducing competition for water by thinning trees and managing for species and structural diversity. The authors suggest property owners consider the source of seedlings when planting new trees.
“Select seedlings adapted to a slightly lower elevation or latitude than your property,” Kocher said. “These would be more likely to thrive under the 3- to 5-degree warmer temperatures we expect in 50 years or so.”
Oak woodlands are widely distributed and diverse in California, which gives them moderate to high capacity to adapt to climate change. Mature oaks are more resilient than young trees and seedlings.
One potential impact of climate change on oak woodlands is increasing precipitation variability and increasing spring rains. The moisture change could increase the spread and prevalence of Sudden Oak Death (SOD), a disease caused by a bacterium that was introduced into California from outside the U.S. SOD is primarily a concern in areas with tanoaks in Central to Northern California coastal areas.
“To reduce the spread of sudden oak death, land owners should prevent the movement of infected leaves, wood and soil,” according to the paper.
The primary concern for coastal redwood forests is the decline in fog. Fog frequency in coastal redwoods is 33 percent lower now compared to the early 20th Century. Less fog and rain plus warmer temperatures would leave coastal areas where redwoods typically thrive drier. But that doesn't mean redwoods will disappear. Areas with deep soil and areas close to streams and rivers may provide refuge for redwood forests.
The new publication, Adapting Forests to Climate Change, can be downloaded free from the UC ANR Catalog. It is the 25th in the Forest Stewardship series, developed to help forest landowners in California learn how to manage their land. It was written by Adrienne Marshall, a doctoral student at the University of Idaho; Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor; Amber Kerr, postdoctoral scholar with the UC John Muir Institute of the Environment; and Peter Stine, U.S. Forest Service.
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Reposted from the UCANR Green blog
After conducting extensive forest research and taking into consideration all aspects of forest health – including fire and wildlife behavior, water quality and quantity – a group of distinguished scientists have concluded that enough is now known about proposed U.S. Forest Service landscape management treatments for them to be implemented in Sierra Nevada forests.
“There is currently a great need for forest restoration and fire hazard reduction treatments to be implemented at large spatial scales in the Sierra Nevada,” the scientists wrote. “The next one to three decades are a critical period: after this time it may be very difficult to influence the character of Sierra Nevada forests, especially old forest characteristics.”
The scientists' recommendation is in the final report of a unique, 10-year experiment in collaboration: the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP). A 1,000-page final report on the project was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service at the end of 2015. In it, scientists reached 31 points of consensus about managing California forests to reduce wildfire hazards and protect wildlife and human communities.
“SNAMP was founded on a desire to work collaboratively to protect the forests of the Sierra Nevada,” said John Battles, professor of forest ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and SNAMP principle investigator. “The challenges are multifaceted with a huge diversity of perspective among the public, among managers, and among scientists. SNAMP tried to bring all these interests and talents together to safeguard a vital resource and a natural wonder."
SNAMP was created to help develop a collaborative management and monitoring plan consistent with the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, signed by regional forester Jack Blackwell on Jan. 21, 2004. The amendment called for the use of fuel reduction treatments – such as prescribed burning, mechanical chopping of underbrush, and harvesting certain trees – in strategically placed areas to slow down potential wildfires and improve forest health.
Because of disagreements over forest treatments in the past, which often led to lawsuits that languished in court for years, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Natural Resources Agency decided to take a new approach in 2005. They asked the University of California to provide unbiased scientific assessments of the impacts of the proposed treatments. UC was also charged with engaging the public concerned about repercussions of the forest treatments on wildlife habitat and water quality.
The scientific efforts and the forest treatments were all conducted in an open and transparent process. To ensure the greatest number of stakeholders were taking part, SNAMP included a public participation team of social scientists and UC Cooperative Extension outreach professionals to conduct and study the collaboration process.
Susan Kocher, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension forestry advisor in the Central Sierra, was a member the project since 2008 and served as the leader of the public participation team during the final two years, succeeding Kimberly Rodrigues, a UC forestry scientist who is now the director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in Mendocino County. Kocher said having outreach and public participation included as a funded part of a science project is unusual.
“We were able to make great strides in getting everybody on the same page,” Kocher said. “That's what our data shows, too.”
A large volume of new scientific information was generated by the science team, and was published in 46 journal articles. The science spread fast and far, according to citation analysis conducted by the public participation team.
“We found that the average time it took for a SNAMP publication to be cited in another journal was about seven months,” Kocher said. “Citations to our articles came from all over the United States and around the globe.”
In addition, SNAMP science-based information was immediately useful to forest managers, according to a 14-page response to the SNAMP final report by the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife and the California Natural Resources Agency. For example, an excerpt of the response submitted by California Fish and Wildlife noted that “SNAMP proved successful at modifying treatment methodology to meet the ever-changing reality of forest management.”
“The results were able to prove useful for managers past and future regarding how management can be implemented, in the face of wildfires while still retaining important owl nesting/roosting and foraging habitat features in and near owl activity features,” the document said.
SNAMP – funded with $15 million in grants mainly from the U.S. Forest Service, with support from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, California Natural Resources Agency and University of California – ran from 2007 to 2015. The project ended with the submission of the final report that contains details about the study areas, the treatment processes and reports from each of the six science teams. The science teams and their final reports are:
- Fire and forest ecosystem health
- Spatial - The study of forest canopy and understory with remote sensing technology called lidar, which uses reflected light for analysis.
- Wildlife: California spotted owl – A bird that is dependent on high-canopy forests.
- Wildlife: Pacific fisher – A weasel-like nocturnal animal that roams a wide area and nests in the hollows of old-growth trees.
- Water quality and quality
- Public participation
A key chapter in the publication is titled Integrated Management Recommendations. In it, the 31 points of consensus are outlined.
“The integration in this project is also unique,” Kocher said. “Scientists tend to work in their own focus areas, but we can learn a lot from each other's research projects.”
Working together, the scientists looked at all the research outcomes. The first 18 recommendations in the chapter are the direct result of scientific research conducted in SNAMP projects; the remainder of the recommendations are based on other scientific work and research.
Each of the recommendations is linked to a management goal. Some goals may conflict with achieving one or more of the other management goals. This approach to organizing the recommendations was taken to demonstrate that, while many of the management recommendations do not clash, a few may. For example, suggesting treatments across a landscape in a way that minimizes the negative effects on wildlife might reduce the efficiency of treatments aimed at reducing wildfire behavior and impacts.
The next steps are for the U.S. Forest Service to consider and adapt the SNAMP results and recommendations to continue to restore and protect the natural resources at risk in the Sierra.
“My hope is the SNAMP will be seen as a promising first try to apply adaptive management in the Sierra Nevada,” Battles said. “We gained important new insights about the ecology of these forests and we learned how to conduct applied research in an inclusive manner that engages not only scientists from multiple disciplines but also managers and the public."
- Posted By: Jaime Adler
- Written by: Gareth J Mayhead
I attended the “Wildfire 2” (AKA Building on Science to Implement Landscape Level Treatments for Fire Resilience) conference in McClellan last week. The conference, organized by UC Cooperative Extension and the Forest Service, was a follow-up to the Pre- and Post-Wildfire Forest Management Conference held in February 2010. Wildfire 2 built on the foundations of knowledge presented at the first conference and aimed to look at some of the broader social sustainability impacts of collaboratively based forest management.
A highlight of the second day was a panel discussion involving some of the key partners in the Dinkey Creek Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project on Sierra National Forest. In 2007, part of the Dinkey Creek area was slated to be a timber sale (that never happened). The broad collaborative process regarding what a redesigned project might look like took place during 2009 and they won the CFLRP process in 2010.
Larry Duysen of Sierra Forest Products (SFP) gave a description of his family’s business in Terra Bella. SFP was established in 1968, among 8 sawmills, that drew sawlogs from Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. In 1988 the first litigation on a Sequoia National Forest timber sale signaled the beginning of the end for most of the sawmills in the southern Sierra Nevada. The sawmills were trapped between the Forest Service and the environmental organizations. SFP is now the only remaining sawmill and has lost 120 of its original 250 employees.
Craig Thomas of Sierra Forest Legacy, one of the organizations behind some of the litigation, described how he concluded that after 15 years of argument and fighting that no one was benefiting from the constant court battles. He reached out to senior managers in the Forest Service and they agreed to work together to bring the science community in to develop principles for forest ecosystem management based on sound science. This led to the publication of GTR-220: An ecosystem management strategy for Sierran mixed-conifer forests. More importantly, he started a constructive dialogue with the Duysen family to try to understand their business needs and to identify areas of agreement with respect to forest management.
As the collaborative process was broadened to include a greater number of groups and individuals, Gina Bartlett, of Sacramento State University Center for Collaborative Policy, was brought in to facilitate. It was challenging but progress was made as trust developed. At the start of the process very few of the people involved would consider working cooperatively with each other (16%) or trusted each other (9%). At the end of the process trust was complete and all were working cooperatively to submit the CFLRP application. Effective facilitation was essential to meditate and to ensure that all views were fully represented in the process.
Mose Jones-Yellin is the project coordinator for Sierra National Forest. As a Forest Service employee he values the fact that the collaboration gives legitimacy to land management decisions.
The main elements of success were identified as joint fact finding (including receiving technical assistance from scientists in order to inform decisions and site visits) and developing trust between the partners.
For me the progress made at Dinkey Creek gives cause for optimism for the progression to sensible, consensus based public forest management in California that delivers a wide range of benefits to communities, wildlife and the economy.
The presentations will be posted on the conference website shortly.
To view the original blog post on the Woody Biomass Blog posted on May 2, 2011, please visit: http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=4774.
- Author: Jaime Adler
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