2A.3 Climate adaptation on National Forests: A case study on the Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming

Monday, 18 July 2011: 2:00 PM
Salon A (Asheville Renaissance)
Janine M. Rice, USDA, Fort Collins, CO; and L. Joyce, B. Armel, G. Bevenger, and L. S. Baggett

Climate change introduces a significant challenge for land managers and decision makers in the western United States. In response to that challenge, the Westwide Climate Initiative, a science-management partnership, has conducted a series of case studies on western US Forest Service National Forests. The goal of the case studies is to develop and evaluate a set of decision-support tools and reference materials that will incorporate climate-change considerations into decision making. We are currently conducting the 4th case study of this project on the Shoshone National Forest. As with the other case studies, the Shoshone case study addresses the urgent need to provide climate change information to land managers, assess the potential role in adaptation of National Forest management and planning, and review existing natural resource paradigms and tools.

The Shoshone National Forest covers 2.4 million acres of mountainous topography in northwest Wyoming and is a vital ecosystem that provides numerous ecosystem benefits, such as clean water, wildlife habitat, timber, grazing, recreational opportunities, and aesthetic value. A synthesis of the current literature on the potential climate change effects on the Shoshone underscore the limited information about climate in high elevations, and the interactions of ecosystems with climate in remote areas. We use a climate change vulnerability assessment to determine the degree to which critical resources are susceptible to, and unable to cope with adverse effects of climate change. Critical resource values addressed are Yellowstone cutthroat trout, water quantity, and vegetation. We spatially categorize vulnerability for these resources using several projected climate futures, and hydrologic and vegetation models to assess sensitivity and exposure. The recently completed watershed condition assessment by the Forest Service is being used to quantify adaptive capacity of watersheds to climate change. Workshops are planned to engage resource managers in determining exposure thresholds and the management options to aid adaptation. While indices of vulnerability will be determined, the underlying data will be available for examination by resource managers. This case study helps Forest Service resource managers incorporate climate change into forest planning, provides information to help guide monitoring efforts, and assists land managers in the development of adaptation strategies that promote more resilient forest ecosystems undergoing the effects of climate change.

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