Climate Change and Forest Biodiversity: A Vulnerability Assesment and Action Plan for National Forests in Western Washington

Climate change predictions for the Pacific Northwest include overall warming, increased winter precipitation, and decreased summer precipitation, resulting in warmer, wetter winters and warmer, drier summers (Mote and Salathe 2009). The extent and duration of the regional snowpack is projected to decrease, particularly at lower elevations (Elsner et al. 2009, Mote 2003). Seasonal stream flow patterns are likely to shift to earlier spring peak flows and lower summer flows, especially for snowmelt-dominated watersheds (Barnett et al. 2005). There is a limited amount of information on climatic tolerance for many tree species and even less information on what complex interactions could result from ecosystemwide exposure to a changing environment.

The goals of this analysis are to conduct a climate change vulnerability assessment of forest tree species, assess the vulnerability of non-forested habitats to climate change, and propose practical management actions that will work under a variety of future climate scenarios and can be implemented by the national forests in western Washington in cooperation with other land managers.

Non-forested habitats vulnerable to climate change were identified using the scientific literature and advice from regional experts. For each non-forested habitat, we assessed the attributes that contributed to climate change, we
identified the ecosystem goods and services provided, and we determined information needs.