GIS-based Vulnerability Assessment of Upland Forests in the Cedar River Waters


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Presented by SERNW and Rolf Gersonde. Climate change presents new challenges for ecological restoration. The recovery of ecological functions, either through reducing disturbance or by actively promoting ecosystem development is put into question as climate change is likely to alter ecosystem development and composition with uncertain outcome for ecological functions. In the diverse landscape of the Cascade Range, climate impacts are going to vary depending on topography and ecosystem composition. While exposed sites are likely to experience stronger climate impacts and have greater uncertainty regarding ecosystem recovery, other sites (climate refugia) are likely to be less impacted or will be altered more slowly. To aid forest and aquatic restoration at the landscape scale in the Cedar River Municipal Watershed, we conducted a vulnerability analysis of ecosystems to guide ecological restoration efforts at the landscape scale and adapt to projected climate change. We identified elements of climate exposure and ecosystem sensitivity that could be spatially represented and scaled. The elements were combined in an additive model to result in a landscape representation of climate vulnerability. Adding a spatial filter of areas where climate impacts would have greater effect on management goals and adding operational constraints enabled us to identify priority areas for conservation measures to restore late-successional forest habitat and ecosystem resilience. This approach could be adapted to other landscapes and management goals and offers managers a tool to prioritize restoration efforts in an uncertain future.

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