U.S. Forest Service climate change study in 2.4 million-acre Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming, finds temperature increase of up to four degrees Fahrenheit, predicts increase of up to 10 degrees by century's end
FORT COLLINS, Colorado
February 28, 2012
– The U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station recently released a report titled, Climate Change on the Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming: A Synthesis of Past Climate, Climate Projections, and Ecosystem Implications. Janine Rice, University of Colorado Post-doc, is the lead author of the report with co-authors Andrew Tredennick, Colorado State University doctoral student, and Dr. Linda A. Joyce, RMRS quantitative ecologist.
The report synthesizes existing scientific information and data on climate change on the Shoshone NF and then analyzes it so that resource managers in the area can use the information and conclusions drawn to assist in making management decisions for the future.
The report notes that the Shoshone National Forest covers 2.4 million acres of mountainous topography in northwest Wyoming and is a vital ecosystem that provides clean water, wildlife habitat, timber, grazing, recreational opportunities, and aesthetic value.
“An intriguing characteristic of the Shoshone is the complex landscape which provides a diversity of micro-climates for the many different types of plants and animals seen on the Shoshone. This landscape complexity could result in some surprising responses to climate change,” Dr. Joyce said.
Based on climate records over the past century, the forest has experienced about a two degree Fahrenheit temperature increase during the summer and fall and an increase of up to four degrees Fahrenheit during the winter and spring. Evidence indicates there has been greater warming at higher elevations as compared to lower elevations. This century we can expect to see a 2 to 10 degree temperature increase. This warming will have both positive and negative effects on the forest ecosystem and on the economies nearby, the report concluded.
Undesirable effects of climate warming would include the possibility of unreliable water supplies, earlier spring runoff, and the late summer season could see lower flows than normal.
“There would be a greater need to manage the water supply with that change,” Dr. Rice said.
Other negative effects would be a possible reduction or disappearance of species that cannot adapt to the changing climate, increased fire frequencies, glacier disappearance, and pine beetle outbreaks at higher elevations.
The $350 million tourist industry of the surrounding communities of the Shoshone NF would benefit from warmer temperatures as revenues would increase from longer summer tourism seasons. However, shortened winter tourism seasons would also occur.
“We may be going into some uncharted territory with temperatures, or at least that is what the science says, and we are not sure how all of this is going to play out,” Dr. Rice said, “so having scientific information to plan and help these ecosystems and resources adapt and change I think is really critical.”
A copy of the report is available at www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_gtr264.html.
The RMRS is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. Our research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs.