New Research by Wilderness Society Scientists Addresses Impacts of Global Warming on Public Lands

Dec 17, 2008

In Forests, Older is Definitely Better for Fighting Global Warming

The logging industry often suggests its harvesting practice of replacing mature, old-growth forests with second-growth forests is an adequate environmental substitute. However, recent research labels this notion false. While studying carbon storage in Western Montana forests, The Wilderness Society’s Tom DeLuca and Sarah Bisbing concluded old-growth forests store three times more carbon than second-growth forests. This finding advocates for the protection of old-growth forests given their vital role in fighting global warming.

* Bisbing, S.M. 2008. Carbon dynamics of old-growth and managed fire-dependent forests in the Northern Rockies. MS Thesis, Forestry. The University of Montana.

Contact: Tom DeLuca, 406-586-1600 x 110

Global Warming to Cause Severe Changes in Alaska Refuge

In the years to come, global warming is expected to rear its ugly head in the direction of Alaska’s Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in a big way. Although fires have always been frequent and widespread on the Refuge, the warmer, drier conditions are predicted to cause severe changes to the landscape and wildlife. Recent research by Wilderness Society ecologist Wendy Loya and Anna Springsteen from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, shows the future to include fires burning and re-burning 25 percent of the Refuge by 2040 and 70 percent by 2080. Loya hopes this information will be used by refuge managers and biologists to better understand the real impacts of global warming. This study will also be extremely important in protecting infrastructure associated with oil and gas production.

Contact: Wendy Loya, 907-272-9453 x 105

Alaska Wildlife Planning in the Face of Global Warming, Roads and Drilling

In light of our current energy and environmental crises, it’s important that Alaska be prepared for the changes that a warming climate and increasing production of oil and gas will bring. This is why The Wilderness Society is participating in a series of workshops sponsored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that are designed to assess and strategize future planning as it pertains to wildlife in relation to climate change, industrial oil and gas development, and expanded road systems. The Wilderness Society’s Wendy Loya is studying the land and waters used by wildlife for migration and predicting future conditions and scenarios. By publishing this information, hopefully by late December, the USFWS will use the results to guide conservation efforts within and beyond Alaska.

Contact: Wendy Loya, 907-272-9453 x 105

Scientists Explore Implications of Climate Change for Land Planning

For the past two decades, federal land managers have looked to the past for models of sustainable management based on the concept of Historical Range of Variability (HRV). Management under HRV assumes that mimicking the dynamics that sustained ecosystems historically will sustain them into the future. That assumption no longer holds under climate change. If the fundamental drivers of future ecosystems will be different from those of the past, historical dynamics may prove a poor model for sustainable ecosystem management. At a workshop hosted by the Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service, The Wilderness Society’s Greg Aplet joined Peter Landres, from the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, to lead a discussion of how lessons learned from the study of the past can be applied to planning for the future of our forests.

Contact: Greg Aplet, 303-650-5818 x 104

Scientists Develop New Model to Predict ORV Noise Impacts

Land managers and recreation planners at federal agencies, such as the National Forest Service, are required to develop a strategy for managing motorized recreation and consider its impacts on wildlife and humans, including noise disturbances. However, these agencies have argued that it would be too complicated, difficult or expensive to predict the potential effects of noise…until now. The Wilderness Society’s Sarah Reed and her team of scientists have created a tool that can efficiently predict the spatial pattern of noise from off-road vehicle activity. Once their model is complete, these scientists hope it will be utilized by land managers and recreation planners to effectively manage motorized vehicles on public lands as well as spark the interest of other researchers to investigate the impacts of noise on wildlife communities.

Contact: Sarah Reed, 415-398-1111 x 109

Protected Lands Produce Benefit for Surrounding Communities

Research over several decades has shown the strongest growth in the rural West is highly correlated with the presence of protected lands. In efforts to build on this correlation, Michelle Haefele, Nada Culver and Alice Bond of The Wilderness Society studied the economic trends in communities surrounding the Carrizo Plain National Monument in California. Their data show that these local economies are poised to gain from the presence of the Monument and other protected lands. These findings have been presented to communities surrounding the Monument (including Taft and San Luis Obispo) and have been enthusiastically received. The hope is that more communities nationwide will realize the economic value of protected lands and transition toward more diverse and sustainable economies.

Contact: Michelle Haefele, 303-650-5818 x 109