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Forested watersheds climate change adaptation

Taking action now can help forested watersheds prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. Forested watersheds improve water quality and enhance water storage, naturally regulate streamflows, reduce flood damages and stormwater runoff, replenish groundwater and provide a myriad of other benefits. Significant changes in temperature and precipitation present challenges to ensuring long-term ecosystem health, particularly in sensitive and unique riparian areas, and may amplify existing challenges related to infrastructure, stormwater, and water quality and quantity.

Effects from Climate Change

Climate change will not affect all parts of a watershed in the same way. The local response and vulnerability of a watershed to regional climate changes will be influenced by soils, topography, forest management, and current and past land uses. Warmer temperatures and variable precipitation will have direct impacts on the water budget and the hydrology of forested watersheds; affecting the timing, distribution and seasonal availability of precipitation. Forest ecosystem vulnerability assessments can help managers characterize site vulnerability in forested watersheds. Understanding the potential interactions of climate changes on the physical, biological, and social environment is critical to ensuring natural resources management reflects future conditions.

Adaptation in Action

Adaptation is critical to sustaining forests and water resources that people, animals, and plants depend upon. The NIACS Climate Change Response Framework has collaborated with partners to create adaptation resources that include hydrologic themes relevant to ecosystem-based management. The forested watersheds menu of adaptation strategies and approaches was designed for managers working in forests, riparian areas, floodplains, forested wetlands, and lakesheds. The adaptation menu is helpful to managers who are interested in supporting hydrologic functions and accommodating hydrologic changes, including issues related to facilities and infrastructure.

Download the Menu of Forested Watersheds Adaptation Strategies and Approaches

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