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Call to Action

November 2016

As the impacts of climate change and other disturbances on ecosystems become more evident, scientists, land managers, tribes and the public are rallying to gain a better understanding of these impacts and identify strategies for addressing them. Working collaboratively, developing climate change adaptation tools, conducting long-term experiments and intertwining western scientific knowledge with traditional ecological knowledge are all actions that Forest Service scientists are taking to help ensure that ecosystems are adapted to future conditions. 

This month, we feature a scientist, a product, research and a partnership all heeding a call to action for the good of the nation’s natural ecosystems.  

Environmental Education Link

Logo of Climate Generation: A Will Steger LegacyClimate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy empowers individuals and their communities to engage in solutions to climate change.

Take action by learning what you can do about climate change!

 

Featured Scientist

Leslie Brandt

Leslie Brandt

How does one prepare to be a climate change specialist?  For Leslie Brandt, her PhD research, which focused on understanding how global change, particularly changes in precipitation patterns and ultraviolet radiation, affect ecosystem processes; and her personal commitment to seeing research used were important factors.  “After graduation, I was looking for a way to apply my expertise to real-world decision making,” she said.  Meanwhile, the Forest Service had developed a partnership aimed at doing exactly what Brandt wanted to do – translate science into tools and products that people could use.

Brandt is a part of the Eastern Region’s regional planning staff as well as the staff of the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS).  Her work is focused on developing climate change vulnerability assessments and structured decision-making tools to help natural resource managers incorporate climate change considerations into management decisions and plans.  “I love being at the interface between science and decision making,” she said.  “I get to talk to scientists working on really cool things and figure out how to synthesize all that exciting new work into something decision-makers can use.”

In 2014, a collaboration of more than 30 scientists led by Brandt resulted in publication of the “Central Hardwoods Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment and Synthesis:  A Report from the Central Hardwoods Climate Change Response Framework Project.” The report assesses vulnerability of ecosystems in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri to climate change and serves as a climate change resource relevant to researchers, managers, and students alike.  The report has also aided in development of several adaptation projects across that region.   Currently most of Brandt’s time is focused on developing climate change adaptation tools for urban foresters.  She is just finishing up climate change vulnerability assessments on urban forests in the Chicago area

Growing up in Wisconsin, Brandt’s time spent cross country skiing and hiking with her family and attending summer camps in the Northwoods helped foster her love of the outdoors.  “In high school, I attended a natural resources summer camp which exposed me to a number of career possibilities in natural resources,” she said.  Ultimately these interests led her to the forefront of efforts to move climate change science into the hands of managers and make a contribution to ensuring ecosystems are adapted to future conditions.

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Featured Product

A Lot of it Comes from the Heart

Birch bark canoe.

At its best, co-management of natural resources leads to interagency cooperation, local stakeholder empowerment, and improved ecological and social outcomes. At less than its best, co-managing natural resources can underscore profound differences in values, beliefs, and knowledge, particularly when natural resources are co-managed by tribal and non-tribal agencies.

In ‘“A Lot of it Comes from the Heart”: The Nature and Integration of Ecological Knowledge in Tribal and Nontribal Forest Management,’ Research Geographer Marla Emery and her research partners explore the generation, transmission, and nature of ecological knowledge used by tribal and nontribal natural resource management agencies managing a 666,542-acre forest in northern Minnesota. Results of the study were published in 2015 in the Journal of Forestry.

Emery and University of Minnesota partners interviewed natural resource managers from the U.S. Forest Service and the Leech Lake Division of Resource Management, an agency of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Half of the Chippewa National Forest is within the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, and 90 percent of the reservation is within national forest boundaries.

Researchers found ecological knowledge among tribal and nontribal natural resource managers interviewed in this study is generated through multiple, intertwining pathways consistent with western scientific ecological knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge, including deductive, discipline specific, and quantitative means as well as inductive, holistic, and qualitative means. Conversations with tribal and nontribal resource managers revealed the unique roles of cultural identity and spiritual or metaphysical connections in knowledge generation, transmission, and content.”

“This study included just one national forest and 23 people, but we think our findings are relevant to a wider geography,” Emery said.  “Understanding the differences in how people learn about forests and how that translates to forest management will support knowledge integration in forest and public land management that not only is compliant with federal law and the Trust responsibility but also respects the diverse values of the American public.”

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Featured Research

SPRUCE - Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change Experiment

SPRUCE chamberFrom the top of trees to the microbial communities deep within the peat soil, an unprecedented whole-ecosystem manipulation at the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station’s Marcell Experimental Forest in Minnesota is measuring how peatlands respond to increased temperature and elevated carbon dioxide. The “Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change Experiment,” or SPRUCE, is a Department of Energy (DOE) research initiative in which the USDA Forest Service and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are collaborating.

“SPRUCE represents a significant DOE investment as well as a commitment by Oak Ridge National Lab to expand our expertise in large-scale manipulations onto a new ecosystem that is important to the global carbon cycle,” said Paul Hanson, the SPRUCE Project Leader and a member of ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division and Climate Change Science Institute.

More than 100 scientists and students from more than 27 research institutions throughout the world are conducting research at the SPRUCE site to answer questions such as:

  • How vulnerable are terrestrial ecosystems to atmospheric and climatic change?
  • Will warming the peatland result in the release of unexpected amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane?
  • How might hydrology be compromised or enhanced by atmospheric and climatic change?

Peatlands occupy only 3 percent of the planet, yet they store as much as 30 percent of the soil carbon stored in terrestrial landscapes. The majority of the peat has been stored in cold, wet conditions for thousands of years; SPRUCE research is exploring how peatlands and the organisms that live in peatland react to a wide range of warming conditions and elevated carbon dioxide concentrations.

"This is the grandest, most ambitious, climate-related experiment ever attempted on the planet," said Randy Kolka, the Forest Service’s coordinating investigator for SPRUCE and a team leader and research scientist with the Northern Research Station.

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Featured Partnership

Center for First American Forestlands

Group photo at meeting of Center for First Americans Forestlands.

Climate change and its impacts to Tribal Nations has become a ‘call to action’ to support enhanced management of sustainable forests and grasslands. In 1999, as Tribes began to see changes in climate impacting traditional cultural forest and natural resources, the USDA Forest Service and the College of Menominee Nation began a dialogue on the best way to respond. By 2003, the Sustainable Development Institute and the Forest Service had formed a partnership that expanded in 2009 with the creation of the Center for First American Forestlands

The Center for First American Forestlands works collaboratively to build a bridge between western scientific knowledge used by the Forest Service and traditional ecological knowledge used by the Menominee Indian Tribe. By understanding these ways of knowing, this partnership is a resource for both tribal and non-tribal forestry and natural resource professionals. The Center for First American Forestlands serves by providing education, policy analysis and technical assistance resources for Tribes. The Center also partners with other Tribal groups and is a resource for other Tribes on many issues, including Tribal Forestry, invasive species, air, soil and water quality, non-timber forest products and the social aspects of forest resources and their management.

The Center is currently conducting collaborative research with the Forest Service and other academic institutions. As an example the Center collaborated with the Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into FIA sampling protocols. The Center is now working with the Forest Products Laboratory and the National Forest System in the Eastern Region, to develop additional ways to provide technical resources for Tribes and opportunities to youth.

Many opportunities and benefits have arisen from the Center’s work and the Forest Service partnership since its inception, according to Jen Youngblood, the Forest Service Tribal Liaison. Those who have utilized the resources at the Center and have realized benefits are Tribal Governments, Tribal communities, Tribal forest and land managers, Forest Service researchers and program managers, and other tribal colleges and universities.

“The influence of the Center in Indian Country and as a resource is tremendous, said Youngblood. “The Center works with Tribal Nations on forest and natural resource sustainability issues across 170 million acres of land in the eastern U.S and 18 million acres of tribally managed land nationwide.“

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