Taking action now can help forested watersheds prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.
Forested watersheds improve water quality and enhance water storage, naturally regulate streamflows, reduce flood damages and stormwater runoff, replenish groundwater and provide a myriad of other benefits. Significant changes in temperature and precipitation present challenges to ensuring long-term ecosystem health, particularly in sensitive and unique riparian areas, and may amplify existing challenges related to infrastructure, stormwater, and water quality and quantity. Managers need tools to integrate climate uncertainty into broader watershed management goals and activities. We are collaborating with regional partners to provide tools to support forested watershed managers in designing and implementing actions for climate change adaptation.
Effects from Climate Change
Climate change will not affect all parts of a watershed in the same way. The local response and vulnerability of a watershed to regional climate changes will be influenced by soils, topography, forest management, and current and past land uses. Warmer temperatures and variable precipitation will have direct impacts on the water budget and the hydrology of forested watersheds; affecting the timing, distribution and seasonal availability of precipitation. Forest ecosystem vulnerability assessments can help managers characterize site vulnerability in forested watersheds. Understanding the potential interactions of climate changes on the physical, biological, and social environment is critical to ensuring natural resources management reflects future conditions.
Adaptation in Action
Adaptation is critical to sustaining forests and water resources that people, animals, and plants depend upon. We have expanded our work to include hydrologic themes relevant to ecosystem-based management. This menu of adaptation strategies and approaches was designed for managers working in forests, riparian areas, floodplains, forested wetlands, and watersheds. The menu is helpful to managers who are interested in supporting hydrologic functions and accommodating hydrologic changes, including issues related to facilities and infrastructure.
- Download the publication "Adaptation strategies and approaches for forested watersheds"
- Watch the presentation on climate change impacts and adaptation strategies for forested watersheds
- Explore real-world adaptation demonstration projects that have used this tool in planning, such as:
Work with Us
We offer assistance on vulnerability assessments and adaptation projects for organizations managing forested watersheds in developed and natural settings. We have developed workshops, trainings, and adaptation plans tailored to forest management needs. Examples of our work include:
- Organizing and facilitating workshops and distance learning courses related to climate change impacts and ecosystem adaptation.
- Creating tools to aid adaptation of forested watersheds to climate change.
- Developing real-world examples of climate-informed forest management across a variety of land types and ownerships.
What does forested watershed climate adaptation look like?
Watch this video to see how forest management can improve forest and in-stream habitats to sustain water quality given extreme conditions. The Monongahela National Forest is decommissioning roads as part of a stream restoration effort to influence water infiltration and water storage.
- Chapter on Managing the Effects of Drought on Midwestern and Northeast Forests from USDA Forest Service. The chapter was co-authored by NIACS and the USDA Climate Hubs; and includes several Climate Change Response Framework adaptation demonstration project examples.
- Responding to challenges in forested watersheds in the Midwest and Northeast report from NIACS, the USDA Forest Service, USDA Climate Hubs
- Topic page describing Climate change impacts to forests and water resources at the USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center
- Infographic on watershed strategies to "Slow the Flow" of water produced by the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (NE CASC) and the USGS
Glacial Lakes Menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches
The Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership is has partnered with NIACS to create climate-informed tools for regional lakeshed and aquatic habitat management. Find the publication here. Contact Danielle for more information.