Wednesday, August 5, 2009: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
Galisteo, Albuquerque Convention Center
Carolyn T. Hunsaker, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station
Chris Knopp, USDA Forest Service
This symposium seeks to address the importance of considering physical, chemical, and biological aspects of forest ecosystems when planning for future forest sustainability. Much of the environmental legislation that defines how we manage land in the United States was written in the 1970s and 1980s. Our knowledge about ecosystem processes and our ability to measure them has dramatically increased in the past 20 years. Have research ecologists and applied scientists effectively communicated this increased knowledge or supplied new tools to land managers and the public? Today are we managing ecosystems holistically rather than just a highly visible piece like a threatened species or its habitat?
Management of the Sierra Nevada has been controversial even with such a long-term management and research partnership. This landscape is undergoing significant change as a result of 80 years of fire suppression, increased air pollution, and climate change. Since 1979 the Sierra Nevada has warmed by roughly 2-degrees Farenheight. Glaciers continue to melt, more precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow, and winter snow packs are melting earlier in the spring. The consequent lengthening and deepening of the summer drought has lengthened the fire season. Many terrestrial vertebrates have moved up in elevation, and some tree mortality rates have doubled.
We propose an integrated set of talks that address interrelated topics. Forest vegetation provides habitat for wildlife and influences water quality and quantity while it is affected by air pollution and changing climate. Talks on the spotted owl and fisher provide the increased science knowledge about the two most controversial terrestrial animals in the area. Fifty percent of the surface water for California comes from National Forests in the Sierra Nevada. Although water is essential for all life, the public seldom expresses interest about research in these headwater systems. The synergy between air pollution and climate change provides a sobering situation for forest sustainability, and needs to be taken into account for southern Sierra management. High levels of nitrogen and ozone can affect soil and water quality and water quantity through influences on vegetation.