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Divergent trends in ecosystem services under different climate-management futures in a fire-prone forest landscape

Halofsky, Joshua S., Halofsky, Jessica E., Hemstrom, Miles A., Morzillo, Anita T., Zhou, Xiaoping, Donato, Daniel C.
Climatic change 2017 v.142 no.1-2 pp. 83-95
climate change, ecosystem services, fire suppression, forests, fuels, land management, landscapes, wildfires, wildlife, wildlife habitats, Oregon
While ecosystem services and climate change are often examined independently, quantitative assessments integrating these fields are needed to inform future land management decisions. Using climate-informed state-and-transition simulations, we examined projected trends and tradeoffs for a suite of ecosystem services under four climate change scenarios and two management scenarios (active management emphasizing fuel treatments and no management other than fire suppression) in a fire-prone landscape of dry and moist mixed-conifer forests in central Oregon, USA. Focal ecosystem services included fire potential (regulating service), timber volume (provisioning service), and potential wildlife habitat (supporting service). Projections without climate change suggested active management in dry mixed-conifer forests would create more open forest structures, reduce crown fire potential, and maintain timber stocks, while in moist mixed-conifer forests, active management would reduce crown fire potential but at the expense of timber stocks. When climate change was considered, however, trends in most ecosystem services changed substantially, with large increases in wildfire area predominating broad-scale trends in outputs, regardless of management approach (e.g., strong declines in timber stocks and habitat for closed-forest wildlife species). Active management still had an influence under a changing climate, but as a moderator of the strong climate-driven trends rather than being a principal driver of ecosystem service outputs. These results suggest projections of future ecosystem services that do not consider climate change may result in unrealistic expectations of benefits.