Forest Ecology, Forestry, and Forest Products
The forested component of the temperate rainforest biome bridges the high alpine, snow-dominated systems and the marine environment. These forests integrate and regulate vast biogeochemical inputs to the nearshore freshwater and marine systems, and store globally significant amounts of carbon. Climate change will impact many variables associated with forest composition, structure, and function, thus affecting everything from biogeochemical cycles to forest productivity and timber management. A shift from snow-dominated to rain-dominated winter precipitation, for example, is already having important impacts on forest health. The emerging phenomenon of yellow-cedar decline, the large-scale, rapid die-off of a culturally and economically important tree species throughout southeast Alaska and coastal British Columbia, has been tied to low late-winter snowpack. Insects and disease will likely respond rapidly to warmer temperatures; and fire regimes in the southern portions of the temperate rainforest may increase in frequency and severity. Changes to forest communities can occur very quickly over large extents as a result of shifts in these disturbance regimes. The PCTR is an ideal study landscape due to its broad latitudinal gradient yet very similar tree species composition and disturbance drivers. Differential rates of warming across this gradient provide an excellent basis for comparative studies; for example, the warmer, rain-dominated systems of the BC coast provide a proxy for southeast Alaska climatic futures. Researchers associated with ACRC are identifying emerging forest change paradigms, exploring the impacts on biogeochemical processes, and investigating impacts to timber management.
Photo courtesy of Wayne Owen, USFS