UK helps forest managers confront climate change

Published 8:00 am Thursday, June 23, 2022

Improving ecosystems’ response to climate change presents a major challenge to the state’s natural resource managers and landowners. The University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Department of Forestry is helping woodland owners face these challenges with a series of July workshops focused on developing and executing management approaches.

The college will host a workshop, titled “Adaptation Planning and Practices for Kentucky Forests,” in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Northern Institute of Applied Climate Sciences. Organizers will offer a virtual session July 12 for all audiences and in-person events for forest managers at UK’s Wood Utilization Center in Quicksand on July 20 and Pennyrile State Forest July 21.

The virtual seminar will focus on climate change’s current and anticipated effects on Kentucky’s forests. Presenters will demonstrate tools and resources that can integrate mitigation and adaptation into natural resource management. Attendees will learn carbon management strategies in the context of sustainable forest management and learn to identify measures that improve forests’ ability to adapt to climate change. Additionally, the workshop will recognize climate change concerns and potential adjustment behaviors through real-world examples and interactive activities.

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“Some of these adaptation strategies might not seem like groundbreaking approaches to conservation,” said Jacob Muller, assistant professor of hardwood silviculture and forest operations extension in the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. “Some of these approaches might just be simple tools to forestry management which can help the forest adapt and make it more resilient to future conditions, such as managing for fire- and drought-adapted species. However, while small, their implementation can still go a long way toward adapting forests and preparing for climate change.”

In-person training is reserved for a limited number of participants and is geared toward foresters and land managers. 

Improving Kentucky’s 423,000 forest owners’ quality of life and the landscapes surrounding a majority of the state’s population largely depends on the health of the commonwealth’s non-industrial private forestlands. Kentucky has approximately 12 million forested acres. 

Forest resources in the state amount to $9.5 billion in direct economic contributions, and $14 billion in total economic contributions while providing 27,000 jobs in 112 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Invasive species, mismanagement, fire suppression and species habitat loss, coupled with climate change, pose threats to forest health and sustainability.

“Forests are incredibly valuable resources in the state of Kentucky,” Muller said. “Climate change poses a significant challenge to the state, but there are practices that can used to mitigate its impact and promote adaptation. These workshops are part of a broader effort to address this need in the state and hopefully align our resources to address this challenge to create a sustainable forest long into the future.”