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Loudermilk Abstract for Tahoe Science Consortium: Fuel Treatments, Climate Change, and Forest Carbon

posted Mar 22, 2012, 9:50 AM by   [ updated Oct 1, 2014, 10:31 AM by Robert Scheller ]
Contributing authors: Scheller, Weisberg, Yang, Stanton, Skinner, Dilts

TSC held in Incline Village, NV, May 22-24:

In the Lake Tahoe Basin (LTB), managers are challenged with balancing forest health objectives to restore fire-adapted ecosystems and protect wildlife habitat with fuels management objectives to reduce the threat of wildfire and protect communities. In the near future, these objectives may also include storing carbon (C) or limiting C emissions as a way to mitigate climate change and climate change effects (e.g., increased fire activity or decreased forest productivity). The likely prospect of increasing regulation of carbon emissions in the near future makes it imperative to assess the trade-offs in forests managed to minimize fire risk with opportunities for C sequestration. For this study, we modeled the forested area of the LTB using a spatially explicit landscape simulation model, LANDIS-II, which includes the direct and indirect effects of climate on succession and disturbance.  Two climate scenarios (high and low greenhouse gas emissions) are used as model inputs, influencing vegetative growth, wildfire activity, and soil decomposition.   The results suggest continued above and belowground C sequestration across the LTB.  Climate under both low and high emission scenarios will however, lower soil water and nutrient availability, reducing forest productivity (biomass growth) and overall C storage potential.  The results also indicate that the application of fuel treatments (i.e., forest thinning) has the means to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on reducing C storage potential. We will discuss the implications of various fuel treatment scenarios on forest composition and resilience, fire regimes, and carbon pools in a changing climate.