As our climate changes, Northwest forests are under increasing stress from disturbances such as droughts and insect outbreaks. Refugia—areas where the impacts from disturbance are less severe than in the surrounding landscape—may promote ecosystem resilience over time and can be important for conservation and monitoring. A new paper on NW CASC-funded research describes how certain landscape characteristics were associated with refugia from drought and insect outbreaks in a lodgepole and whitebark pine forest in southern Oregon.
In this study, researchers first identified refugia from drought and insect disturbance in a whitebark and lodgepole pine forest using remote-sensing data. They then examined how certain landscape characteristics, including topography, soil, and vegetation, influenced the presence of these refugia. This allowed researchers to better understand how certain landscape characteristics can help explain and predict disturbance refugia locations for these tree species. As droughts and insect outbreaks become more frequent or severe under climate change, conservation of refugia may become an increasingly important component of forest management. This research helps forest managers identify the types of landscape locations that might support refugia from these disturbances and support climate-smart management for forest resilience.
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