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.
- Find regional forest ecoregional vulnerability assessments specific to the USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub in the Midwest and Northeast, at the NIACS Climate Change Response Framework
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 complete peer reviewed publication "Adaptation strategies and approaches for forested watersheds"
- Learn more about our approach in Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers
- Brief on Climate change impacts to forests and water resources at the USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center
- Responding to challenges in forested watersheds report from the USDA Forest Service, and the USDA Climate Hubs
- Infographic on watershed strategies to "Slow the Flow" of water produced by the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (NE CASC) and the USGS