Western forests offer opportunities to mitigate the impacts of climate variability and change.
Western forests are facing impacts associated with the changing climate, and improving western forests’ resilience is necessary if they are to adapt to climate change.
The effects of climate variability and change in the West include:
- Shifts in species ranges
- Changes in snowpack duration and extent that affect water supplies
- Changes in the frequency and intensity of wildfire
- Pest disturbances
- Changes in overall forest productivity
The West has experienced an average temperature increase during the last five years that is more than 70 percent greater than for the world as a whole.
In the Pacific islands, many small populations of endemic and “specialist” species are restricted to small geographic areas, making them highly vulnerable to the changing climate. Sea level rise, coastal erosion, freshwater contamination, and extreme weather events are also of significant and growing concern to island communities.
Forests play a complex and important role in both adapting to climate change and mitigating its negative effects.
Management for carbon sequestration and the production of biomass energy are two approaches many states and islands are pursuing that can create economic incentives for landowners to sustain forest health, reduce fuel loads, and provide alternative, sustainable energy. However, without integrated markets for biomass, carbon and traditional wood products, management expenses continue to present challenges.