Scientists released new findings on the importance of mature and old-growth forests in preparing the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon and northern California for global climate disruptions. Published in the January edition of The Natural Areas Journal (Volume 32: 65-74) by the Natural Areas Association, the study calls on regional land managers to protect mature and old-growth forests as an insurance policy for fish and wildlife facing mounting climate change pressures from rising temperatures, declining snow levels, and reductions in fog along the coast.
The project was led by the Ashland-based Geos Institute who brought together scientists with backgrounds in climate change science, Klamath-Siskiyou regional ecology, and conservation planning to comb through data on temperature and precipitation changes and to develop recommendations to help adapt ecosystems while the ecological and economic costs are relatively low.
According to Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist & President of Geos Institute, who led the project team, “for millennia our region’s mature and old-growth forests have been a wellspring for nature and they now hold the keys to sustaining the very ecosystem benefits we will increasingly depend on for freshwater, clean air, and viable fish and wildlife populations as global climate disruptions increasingly impact our area.”
One of the authors of the study, Reed Noss, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Central Florida, underscored the importance of the studies findings for land managers. “Climate change, combined with habitat loss and fragmentation, is the greatest threat we face to nature. This study shows that land managers can reduce impacts of climate change by protecting older forests in a region whose biological diversity has been recognized globally as among the top ten coniferous forests on earth.”
The study used computer mapping and extensive datasets on regional climate and wildlife distributions to determine what areas are most likely to hang on to their local climatic conditions for wildlife seeking refuge from rising temperatures and changes to precipitation caused by climate change disruption. Oldgrowth and mature forests, with their closed canopies and moist environments, are predicted to remaincooler for longer periods of time, therefore providing refuge for species that depend on these conditions.
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