Conservation in a social-ecological system experiencing climate-induced tree mortality

Oakes, L.E. et al. | Biological Conservation | 2015 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


We present a social-ecological framework to provide insight into climate adaptation strategies and diverse perspectives on interventions in protected areas for species experiencing climate-induced impacts. To develop this framework, we examined the current ecological condition of a culturally and commercially valuable species, considered the predicted future effects of climate change on that species in a protected area, and assessed the perspectives held by forest users and managers on future adaptive practices. We mapped the distribution of yellow-cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis) and examined its health status in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve by comparing forest structure, tree stress-indicators, and associated thermal regimes between forests inside the park and forests at the current latitudinal limit of the species dieback. Yellow-cedar trees inside the park were healthy and relatively unstressed compared to trees outside the park that exhibited reduced crown fullness and increased foliar damage. Considering risk factors for mortality under future climate scenarios, our vulnerability model indicated future expected dieback occurring within park boundaries. Interviews with forest users and managers revealed strong support for increasing monitoring to inform interventions outside protected areas, improving management collaboration across land designations, and using a portfolio of interventions on actively managed lands. Study participants who perceived humans as separate from nature were more opposed to interventions in protected areas. Linking social and ecological analyses, our study provides an interdisciplinary approach to identify system-specific metrics (e.g., stress indicators) that can better connect monitoring with management, and adaptation strategies for species impacted by climate change.