Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Portland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center
Deanna H. Olson, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Beatrice Van Horne, US Forest Service
Borys Tkacz, US Forest Service
Close your eyes while standing in a mature forest along the North Pacific coast of North America and you may feel the soft moss, smell a nearby cedar, and hear the trembling song of a wren. You would sense the presence of tall and stately conifers nearby, and perhaps the wind lifting their rain-heavy branches. Coniferous forests of the North Pacific coast of North America have an air of permanence where they remain intact, yet recent and future changes threaten their ecological integrity and human sustainability.
This symposium distills the elements of the altered human-forest ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest, which is being echoed in forests and other ecosystems worldwide. As people’s reliance on natural resources grows, natural systems fragment, ecological resilience becomes tested, and we are faced with daunting challenges of managing to sustain diverse ecosystem services for human well-being. The accelerating pace of socioeconomic and ecological changes are evident in northwest forests, with tomorrow’s ecosystem being minted from today’s management decisions. Rigid past policies are insufficiently responsive to scientific findings and social concerns, and the resulting bifurcated landscape is considered by many to be neither ecologically nor economically sustainable. New approaches are needed to withstand emerging challenges from climate and related changes.
Our new book People, Forests, and Change (Olson and Van Horne, Eds., Island Press) explores the social, physical, and biological sciences of change in these forests. In this session, we focus on six key topics. First, the human-forest ecosystem arises from millennia of natural disturbances framing historic forest ecological dynamics. Second, the human signature on these forests has been both subtle and bold; today we desire a broad range of services including biodiversity, fiber, water, and wild places. Third, full-throttle scientific advances for the last 20-30 years have been addressing novel forest management approaches and effects on productivity, carbon, biodiversity, aquatic-riparian zones, and forest ecosystems at large spatial scales. Fourth, climate-smart management strategies for forest resilience are under development. Fifth, next-generation forest products rely on small trees and diverse tree species, which is changing markets and socioeconomic feedbacks for services. Altogether, a pivot point is being reached where reconciliation of the myriad disturbances molding today’s forest ecosystem warrant a new blueprint for a sustainable future. Collaborative governance structures could enhance landscape connectivity for biodiversity on the brink, economic growth for impoverished rural communities, and wood production for society.