Climate Webinar "take-aways"

Written by Dan Stepanauskas

On February 22 Maria Janoviak of The Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science offered a webinar in partnership with the Guild. The call was an update on the latest findings from the Institute. Maria began by telling us that there is no single answer to any of our evolving climate change issues. There will be warming during all seasons, and by the end of the century we can anticipate an 8-12 F increase in average temperatures in a high CO2 output scenario.

Precipitation has already increased roughly 5 inches per year in most of the northeast. The increase in precipitation will occur in the colder months. The models do not anticipate increasing precipitation during the growing season, leading to a much higher potential for droughty summers. Decreasing snow packs will lead to frequent freeze-thaw cycles which will damage tree root systems. Therefore, we need to leave as much organic debris on the forest floor as we possibly can. Early bud-break will lead to increasing frost damage.  

Here in the southern White Mountains of NH, we have had two years in the past ten when a late frost killed much of the year’s spring terminal growth of beech and oak saplings while the paper birch, aspen, red and sugar maples were undamaged. The adaptive ability of hardwood species is inherently higher than that of the softwood species. It appears that maples, beech, white pine and yellow birch will be relatively resilient. More good news: black cherry, red oak, white oak, black birch, along with the riparian species, will do well, as will the serviceberry! Species that will decline include the spruces, firs, cedar, hemlock, paper birch, aspens and tamarack. Mature trees will be far more resilient to change than the young regeneration. These changes will be gradual, and there will be continual learning as to how it will transpire.

Actions we can take include leaving well-stocked stands in order to both cool the forest floor and to resist damage from the increasing incidence of extreme weather events. Further actions include assisting the northward migration of tree species at the northern edge of their ranges, matching the species to the site (e.g. the ridges and outwash plains will be dryer) and leaving the slash in the forest. How are we to disallow our love for those northern species at their southern edges? Remember, the changes will be gradual.  

Climate change makes our work in the forest that much more important. 

The images in this article are part of the webinar presentation PDF, and sources are listed therein.