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Climate Change Resource Center

From 2008 to 2020, the Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) was the primary source of Forest Service climate change information for management audiences. The CCRC, a joint effort of Forest Service Research & Development and the Office of Sustainability & Climate, compiled and created educational resources, climate change and carbon tools, video presentations, literature, and briefings on management-relevant topics, ranging from basic climate change information to details on specific management responses.

As the agency has built an integrated approach to addressing climate change throughout all of its systems and management actions, the need for the Climate Change Resource Center in its original form has diminished. Climate change is now broadly integrated into Forest Service programs and information on addressing climate change as it relates to a variety of resources and programs can be found throughout Forest Service resources and the USDA Climate Hubs. The USDA Climate Hubs are an interagency collaborative effort to deliver science-based, region-specific climate change information and technologies to agricultural and natural resource managers that enable climate-informed decision-making, and to provide access to assistance to implement those decisions. As the Climate Hubs have grown and evolved over the past decade, the CCRC has become a redundant effort. In order to provide the best user experience, the CCRC is being decommissioned but its resources will continue to be available through the Forest Service Office of Sustainability & Climate and the USDA Climate Hubs.

Education Modules

These comprehensive education modules were created using a curriculum developed by the Office of Sustainability and Climate and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. They give an in-depth introduction to basic climate change science, the effects of climate change on forest and grassland ecosystems, and how we can respond to climate change with management. In module 3, you will review the adaptation options, resistance, resilience, and transition, and learn how to incorporate them into natural resource planning.

graphics representing rising temps, changing tree species, and management actions

For USDA employees, the modules are available through AgLearn: Course: 1300 FS National Climate Change (usda.gov).

Topic Pages, previously published on CCRC

In each Topic Page, expert authors provide a brief introduction to the topic with opportunities for exploring more detail through recommended readings, links, and other resources.

Adapting to climate change requires a comprehensive approach that involves public and private lands. Agroforestry is the intentional mixing of trees and shrubs into crop and animal production systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits. This private land management approach provides opportunities for shared stewardship on agricultural and forested lands, including those adjacent to public lands. Agroforestry allows land managers to integrate productivity and profitability with environmental stewardship that will contribute to healthy and sustainable landscapes.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Several factors contribute to the vulnerability of amphibians to the projected effects of climate change. First consider that for over 20 years, amphibians have been globally recognized as declining (1). Today, they are among the leading taxonomic groups threatened with losses: about 1/3 of amphibian species are already at risk of extinction (2, 3). Leading threat factors include habitat loss, disease, invasive species, overexploitation, and chemical pollution. Next, consider their basic biology. Amphibians have been heralded as Canaries in the Coal Mine, being sentinels of a host of environmental changes due to their biphasic life style with life stages relying on both aquatic and terrestrial systems, their moist permeable skin which is a sensitive respiratory organ, and their central position in food webs. The scenario becomes even more complex when multiple threats affect single populations and the synergistic effects of threats together may become more potent than the simple sum of those parts. Now, adding the effects of climate change to this cocktail of multiple threats and climate-sensitive life history modes is worrisome indeed.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Trees are adapted to specific combinations of environmental and climatic conditions that allow them to grow, thrive, and reproduce. Climate change is already altering conditions across the planet, and changes are expected to continue in the decades to come. The rapid pace of climate change may exceed the ability of many species to adapt in place or migrate to suitable habitats, and this fundamental mismatch raises the possibility of extinction or local extirpation. Assisted migration, human-assisted movement of species in response to climate change, is one management option that is available to address this challenge. This topic page will examine some of the scientific background and management considerations related to assisted migration, focused primarily on tree species.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Terrestrial ecosystems, including forests and grasslands, play an important role in sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2), thereby helping to remove it from the atmosphere and lessening the effects of anthropogenic climate change (1-3). There are a number of greenhouse gas mitigation actions that can help to reduce the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas sources and enhancing carbon sinks in forests and grasslands (4, 5, 3). Ecosystem carbon is of particular interest because of the importance of CO2 and methane (CH4) as important greenhouse gases, as well as the ability of ecosystem vegetation to absorb and sequester CO2 (1, 6). Land management actions can also affect the emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O)—another very potent greenhouse gas—although the role of forest and land management is small regarding this compound.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Management objectives dictate the decisions land managers make. These objectives vary widely based on the landowner as well as the conditions of the ecosystem in question, and objectives may include any number of desired ecosystem benefits: water protection, wood production, wildlife, specific recreational opportunities, aesthetics, privacy, and more. Greenhouse gas mitigation is thus part of a wider array of management aims for forests and grasslands. Managers may choose to incorporate greenhouse gas mitigation as a management objective for a number of reasons, including increasing forest productivity or deriving benefits from participating in carbon markets. However, focusing solely on carbon could lead to non-optimal management decisions, and, in some situations, managing for carbon benefits may be at odds with other goals.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Management activities can have a substantial effect on greenhouse gas mitigation that extends beyond the carbon contained within forest ecosystems. Harvested wood goes into diverse forest products that continue to store carbon for the duration of their useful life. Forest management activities can also supply wood directly for energy, and waste materials from wood products manufacturing and processing can be recovered to produce power.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Although carbon is a relatively new consideration in land management, it is consistent with sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Land management actions on public and private forests and grasslands can be designed to achieve carbon outcomes while meeting other sustainable resource management objectives. Forests are important in capturing and storing carbon, both onsite and in products, and management of these lands can contribute to mitigating climate change.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Climate change is one environmental effect that may be appropriate for managers of federal lands to consider when undertaking environmental analysis as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process. In many ways, consideration of climate change is similar to the consideration of any other environmental effects. Considerations related to climate change include:

  1. The effects of a project on climate change (through greenhouse gas emissions or carbon sequestration).
  2. The effects of climate change on a proposed project. In other words, how climate change may influence the purpose and need for projects in the short-term (within the next 10 to 15 years) and long-term (over the next several decades); and
  3. The implications of climate change for the environmental effects of a proposed action. These considerations may receive different levels of emphasis at different stages of the NEPA process and depending on the nature of a project and its potential effects.


NEPA - Introduction to Incorporating Climate Change

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.



NEPA - Proposal Development

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NEPA - Environmental Analysis

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NEPA - Decision Documents and Implementation

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Climate change refugia are “areas that remain relatively buffered from contemporary climate change over time and enable persistence of valued physical, ecological, and socio-cultural resources”. The key attribute of refugia is their relative persistence, despite changes in the climate in the surrounding landscape. Climate change refugia can result from spatial variability in topography that decouples climatic processes at a smaller scale from broader, regional conditions. One such example is cold-air pooling, where concentrated cold, dense air flows downslope into valleys or basins, creating temperature inversions.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

When considering carbon in the context of land management activities, it is necessary to consider the overall management objectives associated with a piece of land, the carbon stocks in different pools, and the flows of carbon between these pools. Carbon accrues in plants and soil. In forests, carbon is stored in live trees, standing dead trees, downed wood, the forest understory, and soils and can be transferred among these different pools and to the atmosphere. The industrial side of the forest carbon cycle should also be considered, as carbon can also accrue in wood products and substitute for fossil fuel-based products.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Any consideration of forest carbon storage must include soils. In temperate forest ecosystems, the amount of carbon stored in soils is often greater than the amount stored aboveground in living and dead plant biomass. Although the relative amounts of organic carbon in plant and soil components vary by climate and region belowground carbon is a substantial carbon pool. The total amount of carbon stored in aboveground forest biomass (living and dead) varies far less across diverse forest types, with an average aboveground stock for US forests being 55 Mg carbon ha-1 (1). In contrast, belowground carbon stocks show more variation, even when we limit our consideration to the top meter of soil.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

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The remainder of the 21st century will present significant challenges for forest watershed management, as rapid and compounded climatic and socioeconomic changes contribute to an increasingly uncertain future.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

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Carbon is one of the most important elements found on Earth. The carbon cycle supports all life by transferring carbon between living things and the environment. Plants take up carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen (O2) during photosynthesis, which transfers carbon to their stems, roots, and leaves as they grow. When leaves fall and decompose or when plants die, the carbon that was stored in plants is released through respiration or combustion and transferred back to the atmosphere or to the soil. Because of these processes, forests and other natural ecosystems can store considerable amounts of carbon and act as an important global carbon sink. Carbon stored in U.S. forests and associated wood products increased by more than 600 million metric tons in 2014, offsetting a substantial amount of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

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Grasslands cover a broad expanse of the U.S. and encompass a diverse set of environmental conditions and ecological communities. Grasslands are major contributors to U.S. food production and provide many other services valuable to humans including aquifer recharge, pollination, and recreational opportunities. While typically defined as lands on which the existing plant cover is dominated by grasses, undeveloped grasslands consist of more than just grass. They are highly diverse communities of grasses, forbs, and non-vascular and woody plants, punctuated by wetlands that provide critical wildlife habitat. Although climate is an important driver of grassland ecosystems, disturbances such as fire and grazing also play a key role in sustaining grasslands. Some systems, such as temperate savannas commonly grade into grasslands, and are maintained as grasslands principally by human-caused disturbance.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

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Forest carbon stocks are closely tied to forest biomass, so factors that increase tree growth rates will subsequently increase rates of carbon storage within forests.

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Sugar maple is a sensitive species and has experienced climate-related decline historically. The observed declines may occur for several reasons: insects, drought, or freeze-thaw events. It has been observed that even subtle disturbances will tend to favor the beech component within the maple-beech ecosystem. Maple is also susceptible to other ecosystem challenges including air pollution (e.g. acid rain, ozone) and invasive species (e.g. Asian Long-horned beetle). Additionally, because maples are one of the first species to break bud in the spring, they are particularly vulnerable to damage from late frost events. Challenging conditions for syrup production may lead to low-yield years, negatively impacting producers and contributing to instability in supply to the market.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.

Climate change will alter the opportunities and demand for outdoor recreation and the infrastructure that supports it in a number of ways. These include challenges to the sustainability and local feasibility of snow-based recreation given predicted changes in natural snowpack; opportunities for an expanded warm-weather recreation season given predicted increases in temperature; and evolving risks to recreationists themselves in the form of extreme weather events; the proliferation of disease-bearing insects and noxious plants; potential road, trail, and bridge failures; and the incidence of heat-induced and other climate-related illnesses.

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Urban forests play an important role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Active stewardship of a community’s forestry assets can strengthen local resilience to climate change while creating more sustainable and desirable places to live.

Read the full text PDF from the Climate Change Resource Center.