by John Hastings
This is the second in a two-part blog series by John Hastings, graduate student at North Carolina State University’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. John can be reached with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) is the most commercially important tree species in the Southeast U.S. where it occupies over 29 million acres and more than half of the standing pine volume. In addition to being important for soil stability and wood product manufacturing, loblolly pine is ecologically and climatically significant, hosting a variety of plant and animal species, sequestering carbon, and providing a sustainable energy alternative through biomass. Even a species as widespread and critical to our daily lives as loblolly pine cannot escape the inevitability of a warming climate. My work assesses the vulnerability of loblolly pine to increased temperature and less frequent but more intense rainfall, and evaluates the sensitivities landowners are likely to see as a result (see below). In part 1, I discussed the effects of projected temperature change in the future.
Rainfall patterns now and in the future are of critical importance to the landowner. My work looks at twenty global climate models and analyzes what they say about future rainfall patterns based on two different greenhouse gas concentration trajectories (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5). My results back the consensus view that rainfall and storms will become less frequent but more intense (see below) by producing a sample coefficient of variation that increases from the historical baseline through the RCP 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios. This means that rainfall values are projected to become more spread out from their annual average values across the native loblolly pine states. More intense but less frequent rainfall will likely bring on prolonged drought in some areas further stressing soils to degrade, compact, and runoff as well as increasing pressure from forest pests and invasive plants.
The possibility of long-term pressure from climate brings about the need for realistic solutions to help landowners increase their adaptive capacity. The newly developed PINEMAP Decision Support System is making adaptive planning, seed sourcing and deployment possible. Projections and insights garnered from PINEMAP research may drive enhanced management practices such as site preparation, thinning, prescribed fire regimes, rotations, and harnessing rainfall more efficiently to foster species sustainability in a changing climate.
Image Credit: John Hastings