Forest Management for Mitigating Drought Impacts
Forests around the world are experiencing increasingly hot and severe drought conditions, and drought severity is expected to increase as temperatures rise in coming decades, particularly in the already hot and dry Southwest U.S. This presentation will describe recent and ongoing research investigating the long-term, broad-scale impact of droughts on forest ecosystems. Utilizing a network of long-term, operational-scale, forest management experiments from Arizona to Maine, NCASC researchers characterized how forest management can increase drought resistance and resilience. Results illustrate that removing some trees from forests can reduce the competition for water and help trees decrease stress imposed by increasingly dry conditions. In the Southwest, increased tree mortality, reduced regeneration potential, and declining forest growth may combine to undermine the forest sustainability, potentially promoting widespread shifts to non-forested conditions. However, results suggest that forest management can moderate some of the anticipated impacts to mortality and regeneration. This work provides insight into forest management practices that can best minimize drought impacts for a range of forest types and climates in the U.S.