The majority of southeastern forests are privately owned. These landowners are facing increasing and emerging threats from many sources, including climate variability. Forest ecosystems are becoming more vulnerable to disturbance and mortality from disease, drought, insects, and wildland fire. Seven of the eleven southeastern states have experienced 35 or more billion-dollar weather or climate disasters since 1980, more than any other region (NOAA NCDC). Changes in land use and land cover are occurring more rapidly in the Southeast than most other areas of the nation and often interact with and amplify the effects of climate variability on ecosystems across the region. Southern forests are also vulnerable to decreased water availability, hurricanes, and sea level rise. The southeastern US has more wildland fires per year than any other region, and the trend is increasing. The Southeast also has the greatest frequency of lightning strikes, and increasing temperatures will contribute to lightning-initiated wildland fires.
Management practices may be used to mitigate disturbance effects and sustain forest health and productivity. For example, selecting mixes of tree species or species adapted to a range of growth and disturbance conditions can improve forest resilience to multiple threats and stresses. Reducing stand densities can reduce wildland fire, insect, and disease risks and help to alleviate drought or water supply shortages. Modifying rotation length and harvesting practices can increase tolerance to environmental changes. Keeping residual vegetation on site will mitigate increasing soil temperatures and help to conserve nutrients and soil moisture. Bioenergy markets for wood could assist with forest regeneration after drought, insects, and wildland fire, and the southeastern US has among the highest potential for biomass resources from existing forestland.
TACCIMO, the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options, connects the best available climate science with management options for adapting to or abating future changes.