Washington, DC and Ottawa, ON--North Carolina State University is investigating the crucial role that SFI-certified forests play in facilitating landscape connectivity in a changing climate. Landscape connectivity represents the extent to which a landscape supports the ability of plants and animals to move across the landscape. Some species with a limited range, like salamanders or pitcher plants, depend on connected landscapes to maintain healthy populations.
Connecting habitats has long been recognized as one of the keys to supporting conservation in landscapes dominated by people. But rapid changes to the earth's climate and land use patterns mean new research is needed to ensure that conservation potential is maximized, while mitigating climate change impacts and limiting the loss of biodiversity.
"We know that maintaining and enhancing connectivity is key to reducing the effects of habitat fragmentation from climate and land use change. This project represents an exciting evolution in how we think about connectivity and highlights how important managed and restored forests are to reconnecting the landscape. We're thrilled to be partnering with SFI on such a relevant issue in North Carolina," says Tina Mozelewski, a PhD Candidate at North Carolina State University.
The goal of this project is to forecast the growth patterns of forests in the Piedmont and Sandhills regions of North Carolina under high and low climate change scenarios and land use changes, both of which influence landscape connectivity. The project will also quantify how these forests, especially restored longleaf pine and managed forest areas, contribute to landscape connectivity.
Results from this and other studies provide a critical resource for all SFI-certified organizations by helping to enumerate outcomes related to biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation on lands influenced by the SFI Forest Management Standard and the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard. Identifying positive conservation outcomes, key learnings, and opportunities for improvement on the SFI landbase is critical to continual improvement of the SFI standards.
"This work will illustrate the unique role of sustainably managed forests in contributing to the habitat needs of highly mobile species, facilitating corridors for species movement, and clarifying how the unique attributes of SFI-certified forests help build resilient landscapes under changing climatic conditions," says Paul Trianosky, SFI's Chief Conservation Officer.
A collaborative partnership
"Collaboration is at the heart of the SFI Conservation Grants Program. It fosters partnerships between organizations interested in measuring conservation outcomes and motivating improved forest management and responsible procurement. This project brings together academics, NGOs, forest producers, and government agencies to help ensure a positive future," Trianosky says.
Weyerhaeuser, an SFI-certified company, is interested in using the results of this study to inform outreach to private landowners, to help enhance their forest management practices. Domtar, an SFI-certified company, is interested in learning more about longleaf pine restoration under climate and land use change, and how these efforts will advance landscape connectivity in the study area.
The Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center has provided both funding and critical knowledge about the climate and forests of the southeast, which have been used to develop the cutting-edge LANDIS-II Landscape Change Model. The South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also active project partners collaborating on connectivity inputs and methodologies for the LANDIS-II.