Conservation Planning to Manage Alaska Yellow-Cedar

Alaska yellow-cedar. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

To help guide Alaska yellow-cedar management, private and public entities are collaborating to integrate research and data collection activities. Yellow-cedar is one of the most economically and culturally valuable species in Alaska, supporting communities through fishing, hunting, high-value timber production and tourism opportunities. The coastal forests of Southeast Alaska contribute to an ecosystem that is critical to many species and yellow-cedar is highly prized by Native Alaskans for use in cultural art. Regional forest managers consider these values together when making management decisions. Changing climate conditions pose significant challenges to yellow-cedar survival, therefore understanding the nature and extent of forest resilience is essential to long-term management success.

Warmer temperatures are reducing critically important late-winter snowpack that protects soils and tree root systems from fluctuating air temperatures. The associated increase in root mortality from exposure to cold air temperatures (about -5° C) has led to significant yellow-cedar decline.

To aid strategic management, the research team developed a mapping and data visualization tool that displays estimates of natural and assisted forest regeneration (germination). The tool models yellow-cedar regeneration potential across a variety of landscapes and inform targeted silviculture that can simultaneously help to maintain forest productivity, improve habitat and enhance carbon sequestration. The collaboration has established long-term monitoring locations that will improve our understanding of where natural regeneration of yellow-cedar may be most and least successful. Long-term monitoring helps to track the effectiveness of management activities as they change and adapt to new climatic conditions.

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Project collaborators:

  • University of Alaska, Southeast
  • University of Colorado, Denver
  • Drake University
  • Sealaska Regional Native Corporation
  • Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • USDA Forest Service
  • USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • US National Parks Service