California is a world biodiversity hotspot, and also home to hundreds of sensitive, threatened, and endangered species. One of the most vulnerable ecosystems in California is the “sky island” montane forests of southern California, forests of conifers and hardwoods located only in high-elevation mountain regions. Montane forests serve many important ecosystem functions, including protecting the upper watersheds of all the major rivers in Southern California. Yet human use, invasive species, droughts, fires, and now climate change are increasingly threatening the sensitive ecosystem.
A major obstacle to the sustainability of montane forests in southern California is the absence of a coordinated strategic conservation plan across agencies and stakeholders that explicitly incorporates climate, environmental, and demographic factors. In this project, researchers will summarize historical data and develop future projections of California montane forests based on fire, forest growth, and climate modeling and use these data in partnership with stakeholder groups to identify management challenges and priorities in these regions. The project team will partner with the Climate Science Alliance and the Institute for Ecological Monitoring and Management at San Diego State University to facilitate workshops and collaborative planning sessions with stakeholder groups to develop a climate-informed Conservation Strategy for Southern California Montane Forests that can be used in future decision making processes. They will also collect tree regeneration data in fire-burned areas of the San Jacinto Mountains to improve the utility of post-recovery tools in southern California. The outcomes of this project will be directly usable by resource managers to inform planning and management efforts for implementing a climate-informed conservation strategy for protecting vulnerable montane forests.
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“Klamath National Forest in California; Lance Cheung, USDA”