by Kavya Prahdan, graduate student at the University of Washington
I am Kavya Pradhan, a graduate student in the Hille Ris Lambers lab at the University of Washington where I study forest plant communities, their responses to climate change, and potential for climate change adaptation. I am connected to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) through Ailene Ettinger, quantitative ecologist and Hille Ris Lambers lab alumna, because I am interested in doing science that can be useful and usable in conservation and I am curious about what being a scientist at a conservation organization is like. At TNC, I am working with Ailene Ettinger and Michael Case, forest ecologist, to understand how climate change adaptation can be incorporated into forest management.
In response to declining habitat and resilience, forest restoration efforts in the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforests so far have focused on promoting the development of old-growth forest characteristics in secondary forests. However, climate change poses a new management challenge, solving which requires new management solutions.
With changes in temperature and precipitation regimes likely to impact forests vulnerability, we have to ask, how can we incorporate more climate-smart approaches into our forest management plans? One potential answer may lie in identifying and managing for climate change refugia.
Climate change refugia are areas that relatively buffer biodiversity from climate change through landscape features that promote processes like moisture retention and maintaining lower forest temperatures. As a Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center Fellow, I am collaborating with TNC and Willapa National Wildlife Refuge to identify climate change refugia in Willapa Hills, WA. We are also using vegetation surveys conducted before and after management interventions to understand whether managing for old-growth restoration and climate change microrefugia can be implemented together, or if there is a trade-off.
I hope that the findings from our study will support incorporating climate-smart forest restoration into management plans so that forests in the future can be more resilient to climate change.