Graduate student Sebastián Escobar Alonso looks up at a giant sequoia amongst other dead conifers in Sequoia National Park. Photo Credit: Piper Lovegreen
Forests are already beginning to change. Sparser canopies will become more common as the atmosphere becomes drier. Woodlands will also likely have a different mix of species than they historically had. These factors all impact forest carbon storage as well. Forests currently sequester about 30% of anthropogenic emissions, but the group recently found that this would likely decrease under climate change.
Management strategies that encourage forests to adapt will be critical. “We need to be thinking about these forests not as static things — that need to exist just as they are right now — but as healthy things that need to change to keep up with the climate,” Anderegg said. Facilitating gradual change will help prevent abrupt, catastrophic changes, like wildfires and die-offs, that are detrimental to the forests, wildlife and people living nearby.
Resource managers could begin planting areas with more drought-tolerant species and conducting prescribed burns to promote healthy woodlands. But most of all, we need to mitigate climate change, the authors said.
Our future depends on society’s emission trajectory. Climate adaptation is no easier than climate mitigation, Quetin noted. And less climate change means less adaptation is necessary.