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Oregon Coast Range: Projected Effects of Climate Change and Forest Policy

                                                 

Funding:  BLM, EPA

Status: Concluded

Publications:
Creutzburg, M.K., R.M. Scheller, M.S. Lucash, S.D. LeDuc, and M.G. Johnson. 2016. Forest management scenarios in a changing climate: tradeoffs between carbon, timber, and old forest. Ecological Applications. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1002/eap.1460

Creutzburg, M.K., R.M. Scheller, M.S. Lucash, L.B. Evers, S.D. Leduc, M.G. Johnson. 2016. Bioenergy harvest, climate change, and forest carbon in the Oregon Coast Range. Global Change Biology Bioenergy 8: 357-370. 

Data:  
You can find the input data for this project here:  https://github.com/LANDIS-II-Foundation/Project-Oregon-Coast-Range

Overview:
Forests of the Pacific Northwest provide a wide array of important ecosystem services, including 
wildlife habitat, recreation, soil protection, clean air and water, and timber production.  These ecosystem services, however, face multiple threats from climate change, including warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, increasing susceptibility to insects and disease, and increased potential for catastrophic wildfire.  The issues surrounding the long-term sustainability of ecosystem services are highly contentious in the Pacific Northwest, where the spotted owl remains the iconic symbol of the tension between land conservation and timber harvesting.  As demands increase on forest resources to provide ecosystem services, revenue for local economies, and carbon sequestration under conditions of climate change, renewed interest has been paid to the potential use of forests for green, renewable bioenergy.  Along with conventional harvesting practices, residue such as tops, branches and leaves can be removed simultaneously and processed as a source of fuel.  The impacts and benefits of bioenergy harvest are contentious, and concerns remain over the ability of intensively harvested forests to continue to sequester carbon, maintain productivity, and provide ecosystem services.

Researchers at Portland State University, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management used a forest simulation model to integrate forest succession, climate change, disturbances and management to understand the long-term dynamics of forests in the Oregon Coast Range.  
The Coast Range is comprised of a checkerboard of public and private land ownership that is managed for a diversity of goals, resulting in a mosaic of current conditions ranging from old-growth stands of mixed species composition to even-aged Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) plantations managed as short-rotation clear cuts.  Using LANDIS-II, we forecast the effects of climate change on carbon and nitrogen pools in all major ecosystem components, including trees, soils, and detrital (dead) material, while simultaneously accounting for shifting disturbance regimes, harvesting, and tree species composition.  We addressed multiple questions of importance for the long-term sustainability of forested ecosystems in the Coast Range, including:
  • How will timber harvesting, including harvesting of woody bioenergy for power generation, affect the sustainability of forest vegetation and soils?
  • How will the trajectories of sustainability be altered due to anticipated changes in climate? 
  • Will climate change alter the frequency of wildfire, and are there management options that can mitigate for wildfire risk?
The project consisted of two phases.  

Phase I:  Climate Change and Bioenergy Harvest in the Panther Creek Watershed

The Panther Creek watershed, in the northeastern Oregon Coast Range, has been intensively studied and instrumented, and serves as a case study for the broader Coast Range.  In the Panther Creek watershed, we assessed seven climate projections to capture a large range of variability in potential future temperature and precipitation.  We explored seven management scenarios, including no harvest, three harvest rotations (current, accelerated, and industrial) and two harvesting intensities (conventional harvest and bioenergy harvest).  See the poster below, developed for the 2014 Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, for results from the Panther Creek watershed study (or link to PDF here).  

Results from the Panther Creek watershed study have been presented at multiple venues in the spring and summer of 2014, including the International Association for Landscape Ecology annual meeting (May 2014), the Ecological Society of America annual meeting (August 2014) and the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference (September 2014).

Phase II: Climate Change, Management, and Disturbances in the Oregon Coast Range

In the second phase of the project, we modeled climate change, wildfire, and management across the entire Oregon Coast Range, a landscape with a diverse group of stakeholders, management interests, and current management practices.  We conducted a management scenario workshop in July 2014, where we developed several management scenarios.  The four final scenarios we ran are:
  • Current Management : The current management scenario will assume that management practiced in the recent past (last 10-20 years) will continue into the future to the end of the century. It will incorporate the diverse range of variability in management practices among major land ownership groups as well as variability in management allocation within land ownership groups, and will be considered a baseline against which to compare other scenarios.
  • Ecological Forestry: The ecological forestry scenario will alter the pattern of harvesting on public lands to partially mimic natural disturbance patterns and heterogeneity on the landscape. In this scenario, stand sizes will increase and timber harvest on public lands will be comprised primarily of commercial thinning and variable retention regeneration harvest, and forests will be allowed to naturally regenerate to increase species diversity and enhance old-growth habitat.
  • Economic Growth: In the economic growth scenario, priority is placed on revenue from harvest and timber jobs in rural communities. Federal lands will be harvested at a greater rate than current levels as determined by federal stakeholders.

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Megan Creutzburg,
Sep 22, 2014, 8:44 AM
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Megan Creutzburg,
Apr 9, 2013, 10:13 AM
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