Vermont Forests and Climate Change
Dave and Laura, here:
On Monday January 27, Transition Town Jericho welcomed Nancy Patch, Franklin-Grand Isle County Forester, who presented "Creating and Maintaining Resilient Forests in Vermont: Adapting Forests to Climate Change". Nancy shared her vast knowledge of forests, exhibiting a keen passion for her work.
Some of the facts she shared:
• We live in the most intact broadleaf forest in the world, extending from Vermont, New York, Canada, and Maine into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia- overall, a globally significant forest.
• Climate data shows a warming trend, and fluctuations are very large; generally, more warming in the winter than in the summer here in Vermont.
• The growing season is increasing, while freezes are shorter. Flowering trees, such as apple, are flowering before the last frost. The frosts are killing the flowers, thus inhibiting healthy fruit harvests.
• Growing zones have changed from zone 3 to zone 4 in northern Vermont
• More frequent, heavier rainfall (increasing 67% compared to the rest of the country) having added impact due to Vermont’s steep slopes and narrow valleys.
• 15-20% increase in rainfall overall (as illustrated in a study Nancy cited, from 1958 to 2007).
Changes we can expect in the short term here in Vermont:
• Longer growing seasons
• Shorter winters
• More summer heat producing potential droughts
• Extreme weather events such as heavy single rain events that cause flash flooding
• Windstorms that are more frequent, sometimes leading to saturated soils will not hold the trees in place.
• Ice Storms – also more frequent and causing more damage.
What we can do to help forests:
• Leave larger trees in place, as they are wind-firm. Big trees sequester and store more carbon than smaller trees, and are better seed producers.
• Stagger tree heights at the edges of fields.
• Encourage age and diversity in the forest so that no single pest or disease can adversely affect the whole forest, ideally mixed sizes and ages with 10-12 species.
• Allow trees to die and be left standing, as that allows the forest floor to supply nutrients to the next generation.
During the Q & A, there was some discussion of deer, how they feed on new growth and thus pose a serious threat to regenerating forests. On the other hand, Nancy called blue jays “climate change heroes“ since their habit of burying acorns is so good for the forest.
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