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Geos Institute helps communities build resilience in the face of climate change

Managing Coast Redwoods for Resilience in a Changing Climate

pnw redwoods national park in fogReports:

The North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative, California Landscape Cooperative, Geos Institute, Society for Conservation Biology (Humboldt State Chapter), and the Environmental Protection Information Center hosted a workshop and field trip entitled: “Managing Coast Redwoods for Resilience in a Changing Climate,” which took place on September 6 and 7, 2013 at Humboldt State University and Redwood National Park.

The Friday workshop was held at Humboldt State University, and Saturday’s all-day field trip toured forest restoration sites in Redwood National Park, arranged by the National Park Service.

Workshop participants came from a variety of different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Most were associated with state and federal land management agencies, city government, university research institutions, private forestry, Native American tribes, and non-governmental organizations. This workshop is intended to be one of many to develop sound adaptation strategies for the coast redwood ecoregion, with a strong basis in stakeholder engagement.

pnw redwoods workshopThe objectives of the workshop were to:

  1. Bring together scientists and managers with expertise in redwood ecosystems;
  2. Evaluate the leading science on stressors to redwoods, including climate change; and
  3. Identify and prioritize adaptation strategies for increasing the resilience of redwoods in the face of climate change.

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 effort are summarized in a white paper developed for distribution.

We talked at length about the need to plan for resistance, resilience, and transition throughout the redwoods ecoregion.

  • Resistance is the ability of a system to withstand impacts without major change in plant and wildlife communities
  • Resilience is the ability of a system to recover after perturbations, such as fire or drought.
  • Transition is the change from one type of system to another in response to climate change and/or other factors.

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.

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

  1. restoration 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 addition to these four strategies, the group identified and prioritized many other potential strategies (Table 2 in the white paper) for managing this iconic ecosystem. More information can be found in the white paper and the draft workshop summary.

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