Wenatchee climate change workshop

The Okanogan-Wenatchee NF hosted the most recent climate change workshop for the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership (NCAP) on February 23, 2011 in Wenatchee. NCAP is a Forest Service (FS) and National Park Service (NPS) collaboration on climate change adaptation. NCAP is also a science/management partnership which includes the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie NF, the North Cascades National Park complex, the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF, and Mt. Rainier National Park; an area encompassing roughly six million acres. The primary science providers for the partnership are the Climate Impacts Group from the University of Washington and the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station.

I attended the one day workshop in Wenatchee and wanted to share with you some of the key points I learned about climate change and affects on area ecosystems.

The science of climate change is based on THOUSANDS of peer-reviewed papers which show or point to a warming world. In the last fifty years most of the climate change affects can be attributed to human activity and in the Pacific Northwest 35-60% of observed hydrologic trends from 1950-1999 are a consequence of human caused global warming.

The Whitebark Pine was identified in a 2008 climate change workshop as a key forest species of concern. The NCAP is looking at Whitebark Pine habitat and wants to make sure it is in the best possible shape for future climate change; this is part of the science-management collaboration talked about during the workshop. Whitebark Pine is important because the seeds are a key food source for Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades ecosystem.

Mountain Pine Beetle which over-winter in the cambium layer of many coniferous tree species of the Pacific Northwest are very sensitive to climate effects. Very cold winters can kill the larvae of the beetle which would normally emerge in the spring to feed on their hosts. The Rocky Mountains used to be a “cold barrier” preventing the Mountain Pine Beetle from crossing over to the West, this is no longer the case. The warming climate favors more frequent and larger outbreaks of beetle infestations in our Western forests.