Report says milder winters in U.P. are affecting forests | Michigan Radio

Report says milder winters in U.P. are affecting forests

Sep 23, 2014

A trail to Rainbow Falls along the Black River Scenic Byway in the Western U.P. Winters in the U.P. are changing, and that means conditions are becoming better for some species and worse for others.
Credit user:yooperann / Flickr

The U.S. Forest Service has put out a report on how our warming climate is affecting forests in the U.P.

Stephen Handler is a climate change specialist with the Forest Service. He says, over the past several decades, we’ve been getting more extreme rainstorms in the region.

“So, more rain of two inches at a time, three inches at a time; and we’re seeing our winters, which is our characteristic climatic feature, shrinking, so, getting shorter and getting more variable, or getting less consistent snowpack,” he says.

Handler says that’s giving species like red maple an edge because it doesn’t do well in harsh winters. He says some other species, like black spruce, could get stressed by warmer winters.

He says forests with a diverse mix of species are likely to be more adaptable as things change.

A summary of the report, created by the Climate Change Response Framework, includes suggestions of what forest managers and landowners can do to help. It says that managers can use the scientific information from the report to better understand how particular forests may be more or less vulnerable. 

The Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts provided some of the information used in the assessment. The WICCI has created online maps with information such as freeze dates, precipitation, snowfall and other measures.