Assessing Land Management Change Effects on Forest Carbon and Emissions Under Changing Climate
Abstract:There has been limited focus on fine-scale land management change effects on forest carbon under future environmental conditions (climate, nitrogen deposition, increased atmospheric CO2). Forest management decisions are often made at the landscape to regional levels before analyses have been conducted to determine the potential outcomes and effectiveness of such actions. Scientists need to evaluate plausible land management actions in a timely manner to help shape policy and strategic land management.
Issues of interest include species-level adaptation to climate, resilience and vulnerability to mortality within forested landscapes and regions. Efforts are underway to improve land system model simulation of future mortality related to climate, and to develop and evaluate plausible land management options that could help mitigate or avoid future die-offs. Vulnerability to drought-related mortality varies among species and with tree size or age. Predictors of species ability to survive in specific environments are still not resolved. A challenge is limited observations for fine-scale (e.g. 4 km2) modeling, particularly physiological parameters. Uncertainties are primarily associated with future land management and policy decisions. They include the interface with economic factors and with other ecosystem services (biodiversity, water availability, wildlife habitat). The outcomes of future management scenarios should be compared with business-as-usual management under the same environmental conditions to determine the effects of management changes on forest carbon and net emissions to the atmosphere. For example, in the western U.S., land system modeling and life cycle assessment of several management options to reduce impacts of fire reduced long-term forest carbon gain and increased carbon emissions compared with business-as-usual management under future environmental conditions. The enhanced net carbon uptake with climate and reduced fire emissions after thinning did not compensate for the increased wood removals over 90 years, leading to reduced net biome production. Analysis of land management change scenarios at fine scales is needed, and should consider other ecological values in addition to carbon.