By Jennifer Hushaw
73% of foresters to consider climate change in their management decisions after engaging with Manomet!
Many Manomet supporters are familiar with the Climate Smart Land Network (CSLN)—a Manomet program that aims to increase the resilience of North American forests by working with forest owners and managers to develop “climate smart” management practices based on the latest science. Our approach of engaging directly with managers (a strategy employed across many Manomet programs) has allowed us to impact a significant acreage—the CSLN currently includes ten member organizations that manage over 15.6 million acres. Building on this impact, we have continued to use this approach in another, less well-known, aspect of our work, which is outreach and engagement with forestry professionals in the Northeast.
Eric Walberg (Climate Services Director) presenting during a recent CSLN workshop for
forestry and natural resource professionals in Lancaster, NH. (October 2016)
Over the past several months, Manomet Climate Services staff conducted workshops for over 180 foresters and natural resource professionals across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. This was a great opportunity to leverage change because these individuals are responsible for managing thousands of acres of public and private forestland across the region. The workshops inform participants about climate change trends, expected forest impacts, and a spectrum of potential management responses. We cover the fundamental science of climate change and natural system response, while also outlining a number of ‘things to do’ in the near-term that can buffer or lessen some negative impacts.
For example, the Northeast has seen a 71% increase in heavy precipitation events in recent decades (a result of the fact that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor) and this has had a direct impact on forest infrastructure, including washouts on forest roads and stream crossings that blow out during high water flow events following a heavy downpour. This increase has been observed first-hand by the CSLN and many of our workshop participants. In response, many are now upsizing culverts and other stream crossings as a matter of course or using temporary crossings more frequently in order to accommodate this “new normal.”
Another example of an adaptation strategy is shifting the timing and/or location of harvest operations to rely less on frozen ground conditions. On certain sites in the Northeast, particularly where there are wetter soils, harvests are often conducted in the winter when the ground is frozen in order to reduce soil disturbance from logging equipment. However, many managers report they can no longer count on consistent frozen conditions and they experience more freeze/thaw events that can stall harvest operations or even make it impossible to access certain areas. This is consistent with observed and projected trends toward warmer winters and less snowfall as the climate warms, and it requires managers to change how they typically operate.
Feedback from these workshops has helped us tailor our content to make it valuable for managers who want to know what’s coming and what they can do tomorrow to tackle these changes. Results from our post-workshop surveys indicate we’re hitting the mark. On average, 99% of attendees said the workshop improved their understanding of climate change and forest response, while 83% agreed or strongly agreed that the content provided a useful approach they can implement now. But perhaps the most telling statistic is that, on average, only 24% of attendees said they had previously considered climate change in their forest management decisions, while an average of 73% said they planned to do so in the future—just one measure of Manomet’s success with applying science and engaging people to move the needle on sustainability.