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Climate Science and Forest Management in Minnesota

Title: Integrating Climate Science Into Forest Management Decision-Making Using A Collaborative Network Approach

Funding:  USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)
Status:  Completed. September 2012- December 2016

People:  Robert Scheller, Melissa Lucash
Eric Gustafson (U.S. Forest Service- WI), Brian Sturtevant (U.S. Forest Service- WI), Helen Jenny (Oregon State U.)

Why is this research important?
Understanding how climate change, forest management and disturbances shape forest production, species composition, and carbon sequestration is of utmost concern in the Midwestern US, which has 35 million hectares of forested land (US Census 2011). Although only ~8% of the U.S. timber supply comes from this region, annual timber revenues exceed $17 billion dollars in Minnesota alone. The wood products industry is also a critically important source of employment in many rural communities in MN (MDNR 2011). The importance of Minnesota’s forest products industry is demonstrated by the state’s legislated mandate to promote long-term sustainable management of Minnesota’s forests (Sustainable Forest Resources Act of 1995).

Minnesota’s forests are important not only for their timber production, but also carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and clean drinking water. In this study we are studying the long-term sustainability of timber supply, but also how species composition and carbon sequestration will change over the next century given disturbances like insects, wind and fire.

How are we simulating the impacts of climate change on forests?
Climate change is an ecological driver that crosses political boundaries and ownerships.  Therefore, a landscape-level approach is necessary to determine its potential impact on forested ecosystems. We are using LANDIS-II, a landscape-level model to project long-term changes in these forests.  LANDIS-II is a widely-used and well-tested process-based landscape model (Scheller et al. 2007), particularly in the midwestern U.S.  LANDIS-II is especially robust since successional pathways are not deterministic (Scheller and Mladenoff 2005), which is  necessary when simulating novel ecological conditions, such as climate change. Specifically, LANDIS-II projects the spatial and temporal interactions of climate change and multiple disturbances, such as fire and windstorms, to determine forest dynamics at large scales (typically 10,000 -1 million ha). In our research in northern MN (see map above), we are simulating the impacts of wind, fire, and timber harvesting on species composition and C cycling under multiple CMIP5 climate change scenarios.   

How is this relevant to forest managers?
Forests and their products are vulnerable to climate change. This situation is exacerbated by diverse land ownership that hampers coordinated adaptation to climatic changes. We are collaborating with federal, state and private forest managers in Minnesota to improve our projections about how climate change will affect these forests. We also aim to help managers incorporate climate change adaptation and mitigation into their planning and management activities. Our results will reduce uncertainties about how climate change will alter Midwestern forest dynamics and directly support vulnerability assessments for the region. As part of this project, we have created a visualization tool that allow managers to directly query the output and answer a variety of management-related questions. This tool makes it easy for managers to view how different climate change scenarios will affect forests and visualize how different management strategies might aid in promoting forest sustainability.

Status of Project (as of 10.26.16)

Model Development. The model developments to add a central, dynamic climate library for LANDIS-II, Century and the disturbances extensions were completed by John McNabb and Amin Almassian.  Minor model revisions to LANDIS-Century to improve leaf area dynamics have been completed by Melissa Lucash and Rob Scheller. These changes have been incorporated into the new version of Century (v 4.0), which was released in March 2015. Improvements to the fire extension to utilize the climate library  are complete and we expect to release a new version of Dynamic Fire and Fuels soon.

Visualizations. Helen Jenny and Johannes Liem (College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU) have completed their work on the visualization tools.  A description of their 4-D tool has been published in IEEE Journal (Jenny et al. 2014). Eric Gustafson prepared a GTR on the 2-D visualization tool; the paper outlines the use of LandViz for forest managers and researchers (Gustafson et al. 2016).

Simulations. Simulations to forecast how climate change will affect forest species composition and C cycling are completed.

Upcoming Stakeholder Meeting.  After multiple meetings with stakeholders in MN, we presented our near-final simulation results at the Chippewa National Forest on November 5, 2015.  


Lucash, MS, RM Scheller, E Gustafson, and B Sturtevant. Spatial resilience of forested landscapes under climate change and management. In review.

Grinde, AR, H Panci, B Sturtevant, GJ. Niemi, W Thogmartin, and P Wolter. Long-term avian responses to land cover and climate. In preparation for Forest Ecology and Management. 

Lucash, MS, RM Scheller, E Gustafson, B Sturtevant and A Kretchun. Multiple disturbances under climate change and management. In preparation.

Sturtevant, BR, BR Miranda, H. Panci, A. Grinde, G. Niemi and MS Lucash. Forecasting potential bird habitat in LANDIS-II under alternative climate and management scenarios.  In preparation.

Lucash, MS, RM Scheller, and E Gustafson. Scenario analysis in landscape-level modelling. Co-organizer of special session on Research Needs and Capabilities for the National Climate Assessment. Ecological Society of America. August 2015. Baltimore, MD.

Gustafson, E.J., M. Lucash, R.M. Scheller, and B.R. Sturtevant.  2015.  Assessing the vulnerability of forested landscapes to climate change.  Oral presentation in Symposium Applications in forest landscape ecology: evolution, progress, and challenges, at the 9th International Association for Landscape Ecology World Congress, Portland, OR, July 5-10, 2015.

Lucash, M., R.M. Scheller, and E. Gustafson. Latest advancements of LANDIS-II. IALE World Congress, Portland, OR. July 2015.

Sturtevant, B.R., B.R. Miranda, H. Panci, A. Grinde, and G. Niemi.  Forecasting potential bird habitat in LANDIS-II under alternative climate and management scenarios.  In: 9th IALE World Congress, Portland OR. July 2015.

Lucash, M., R.M. Scheller, H. Jenny, J. Liem and M. Creutzberg. Latest developments of Century Succession: New climate library and visualization tools. LANDIS-II Meeting, Madison, WI. January 2014.

Lucash M.S., R.M. Scheller, E. Gustafson and B.R. Sturtevant. Winds of change: How will windstorms and forest harvesting affect C cycling under different climate scenarios? American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, CA. December, 2013. AGU abstract

Jenny, H., J. Liem, M.S. Lucash and R.M. Scheller. Visualization of alternative future scenarios for forest ecosystems using animated statistical surfaces. The Second International Conference on AgroGeoinformatics, Fairfax, VA, August 2013.

Lucash, M.S., R.M. 
Scheller, H. Jenny, E. Gustafson, and B.R. Sturtevant. Evaluating the impact of climate change on midwestern forests.  Next Generation Data Products Workshop. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Boulder, CO. July 2013.  Session 7.  

Lucash, M.S. and R.M. Scheller. Challenges of data assimilation for researchers and forest managers. RCN Forecast Conference: Promoting new perspectives on data assimilation in global change science. Woods Hole, Massachusetts, October 2012.

Scheller, R.M., M.S. Lucash, H. Jenny, E. Gustafson, B.R. Sturtevant.  Integrating climate change results into forest management plans using a scenario visualization tool.  Invited Speakers at Future Scenarios of Landscape Change: Tools and Tactics Workshop.  Harvard Forest, Massachusetts.  July 2012.