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Climate change in the Lake Tahoe Basin

Abstract:  Managing large forested landscape in the context of changing climate regimes and altered disturbance regimes presents new challenges and will require an integrated assessment that incorporates forest disturbance, management, succession, and the carbon cycle. Successful management requires information about the inherent trade-offs among multiple objectives and improved awareness of the opportunities for spatially optimizing management on the landscape. We are evaluating the effects of fire suppression, wildfires, bark beetle outbreaks, and forest fuel (thinning) treatments on the long-term potential for Lake Tahoe forests to sequester carbon in a global change context. We are also assessing the tradeoffs among management for C sequestration, mechanical fuel treatments, and stochastically recurring wildfires. Predicted changes in climate and ignition patterns will be simulated in response to future meteorological conditions, vegetation dynamics, and fuel treatments to examine the long-term effects on C emissions, forest structure, and forest composition.

Funding: Sierra Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA)

Participants at PSU: Louise Loudermilk, Robert Scheller, Alec Kretchun

Collaborators: Peter Weisberg (UNR), Jian Yang (UNR), Alison Stanton, Carl Skinner (USFS), Matt Hurteau (Penn State)

Status:  Ongoing

Related Links: Lake Tahoe Bark Beetle Modeling, Tahoe Science Consortium

Results: We encourage interested parties to read the publications listed below, which to date represent the findings of our Tahoe climate change research. Broadly speaking our research has revealed the following:

Due primarily to landscape legacy effects of historic logging of the Comstock Era in the late 1880's, C sequestration in the Lake Tahoe Basin may continue throughout the current century, and the forest will remain a C sink (Net Ecosystem Carbon Balance > 0), regardless of climate regime

Fuel treatments were most effective when continuously applied and strategically placed in high ignition areas. Treatment type and re-application interval were less influential at the landscape scale, but had notable effects on species dynamics within management units.

- Forest productivity in the Basin has a nonlinear relationship with moisture stress, and that growth patterns are likely best explained by a combination of moderate moisture sensitivity and mortality caused by bark beetles.

- Fuel treatments have the potential to ‘bend the C curve’, maintaining carbon resilience despite climate change and climate-related changes to the fire regime. Simulated fuel treatments resulted in reduced fire spread and severity. 

Publications:

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller. P.J. Weisberg, A.M. Kretchun. 2016. Bending the carbon curve: fire management for carbon resilience under climate change. Landscape Ecology

Kretchun, A.M.,  E.L. Loudermilk, R.M. Scheller, M.D. Hurteau, S.M. Belmecheri. 2016. Climate and bark beetle effects on forest productivity: linking dendroecology with forest landscape modeling. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 10.1139/cjfr-2016-0103

Yang, J., P.J. Weisberg, T.E. Dilts, E.L. Loudermilk, R.M. Scheller, A. Stanton, C. Skinner.  2015.  Predicting wildfire occurrence distribution with spatial point process models and its uncertainty assessment: a case study in the Lake Tahoe Basin, USA.  International Journal of Wildland Fire 24: 380-390.

Loudermilk, E. L., A. Stanton, R. M. Scheller, T. Dilts, P. J. Weisberg, C. N. Skinner, and J. Yang. 2014. Effectiveness of fuel treatments for mitigating wildfire risk and sequestering forest carbon: A case study in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Forest Ecology and Management 323: 114-125.

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller, P.J. Weisberg, J. Yang, T. Dilts, S.L. Karam, C.N. Skinner. 2013. Carbon Dynamics in the Future Forest: The Importance of Climate-Fire Interactions and Long-Term Successional Legacy. Global Change Biology 9: 3502-3515.

Result of the 2007 Angora Fire (Picture taken in 2009)









Presentations & Workshops:
Scheller, R.M., A.M. Kretchun, E.L. Loudermilk, M.D. Hurteau, P.J. Weisberg, C. Skinner. The effects of bark beetle outbreaks on forest carbon and composition under future climate projections in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Ecological Society of America 99th Annual Meeting. August 2014. Sacramento, California.

Kretchun, A.M., E.L. Loudermilk, R.M. Scheller, M.D. Hurteau, S. Belmecheri. Stand to landscape level ANPP: Using tree-cores and disturbances to model forest growth patterns. Ecological Society of America 99th Annual Meeting. August 2014. Sacramento, California.

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller, A.M. Kretchun, M.D. Hurteau, P.J. Weisberg, J. Yang, A.E. Stanton, C. Skinner. Past and future forests of the Lake Tahoe Basin: Understanding interacting effects from climate change, bark beetle outbreaks, wildfires, and forest and land-use management. Invited Speaker at Organized Oral Session at the Ecological Society of America 99th Annual Meeting. August 2014. Sacramento, California.

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller, P. Weisberg, M.D. Hurteau, J. Yang, A. Stanton, C, Skinner, T. Dilts. Fuels management in an uncertain future: Climate-driven wildfire, bark beetle, and drought interactions in the forested landscape of the Lake Tahoe Basin. International Association of Landscape Ecology Meeting. May 2014. Anchorage, Alaksa.

Scheller, R.M. Climate Change and Policy for Landscape Ecology and the Need for Radical Innovation. Invited Speaker at the International Association of Landscape Ecology Meeting. May 2014. Anchorage, Alaska.

Kretchun, A.M., E.L. Loudermilk, R.M. Scheller, M.D. Hurteau, S. Belmecheri.  Stand to landscape level ANPP: Using tree-cores and disturbances to model forest growth patterns.  International Association of Landscape Ecology Meeting. May 2014. Anchorage, Alaska.

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller, P. Weisberg, J. Yang, A. Stanton, C. Skinner.  Long-term effects of fuel treatments and wildfire on forest carbon in a changing climate.  Invited Speaker at a Special Session of the Association for Fire Ecology 5th International Congress.  December, 2012. Portland, OR.

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller, P. Weisberg, J. Yang, A.E. Stanton, C. Skinner, T. Dilts.  Climate change and landscape legacy effects on forest carbon dynamics and wildfires in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  Invited Speaker at Organized Oral Session at the Ecological Society of America 97th Annual Meeting.  August, 2012. Portland, OR.

Forest Responses to Fuel Treatments in a Changing Climate. Loudermilk, E.L., A. Stanton, R.M. Scheller, J. Yang, P. Weisberg, C. Skinner. Tahoe Science Consortium. May 2012, Incline Village, NV.

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller, P. Weisberg, J. Yang, A. Stanton, C Skinner. Forest Fuel Treatments in a Changing Climate: Assessing Forest Productivity & Carbon Storage Potential. Tahoe Science Consortium. May 2012, Incline Village, NV.

View our recorded presentation of Preliminary Results (April 2011)

LTB Manager's Workshop: Developing Fuel Treatments Options. Loudermilk, E.L., A. Stanton, R.M. Scheller.  May 2011. TRPA Stateline, NV.

Loudermilk, E.L., R.M. Scheller, P. Weisberg, J. Yang, A. Stanton, T. Dilts, C, Skinner. Modeling above and below ground forest carbon in response to future climate projections and wildfire activity in the Lake Tahoe Basin. International Association of Landscape Ecology Meeting. April 2011, Portland, OR.

Scheller, R.M., P. Weisberg, and E.L. Loudermilk. Management Options for Reducing Wildfire Risk and Maximizing Carbon Storage: The Effects of Climate Change, Altered Ignition Patterns, and Fuel Treatments. Invited Speaker at the Symposium on Forest Management Decision Support Tools: How can they inform decisions in the Tahoe basin? November, 2010. Incline Village, NV.