Expert meeting to discuss yellow-cedar status and Endangered Species review

Together with the Alaska Coastal Rainforest and with funding from US Fish & Wildlife, several experts and interested policy makers from the US and Canada are meeting in Juneau, Alaska next week to discuss yellow-cedar decline, range considerations, protected status, genetic health, and other issues pertaining to the health of the species.  The two day event will be held at the University of Alaska Southeast.  I encourage all to come, or tune in, to the talks - this is a complicated phenomena, with significant implications for any decision made in terms of protected status.

The schedule is below.  It will be in the Rec Center classrooms on the UAS campus.  Contact Brian Buma for call in information.

Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct 24

9:00                  Coffee

9:30                  Welcome and opening notes – Allison Bidlack, Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center and Steve Brockmann, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

9:45 - 10:15      Introductions

 Session 1 – Yellow-Cedar Biology, Adaptations, and Ecological Requirements        

10:15 - 11:00    Deep biology of yellow-cedar – Paul Hennon

11:00 – 11:30   Yellow-cedar: A genetic perspective – Rich Cronn

11:30 - 12:00    A chemical-genomics approach to stress response traits in western red-cedar and yellow-cedar - Jim Mattsson

12:00 – 12:30    Discussion

Session 2 – Current Status, Distribution, and Populations

1:30 - 2:00        Current range and decline model of yellow-cedar:  Development and current status - Brian Buma

2:00 – 2:30       Is climate driving yellow-cedar decline on Haida Gwaii? – Vanessa Comeau

2:30 - 3:00        Young-growth yellow-cedar: Improving our database and monitoring decline – Liz Graham

3:00 – 3:30       Measuring and monitoring extent and severity of yellow-cedar decline in Alaska - Tom Heutte

3:30 – 4:00       No evidence of recent (1995-2013) decrease of yellow-cedar in Alaska, response to questions – Tara Barrett

4:00 - 5:00        Discussion

Wednesday, Oct 25

8:30                  Coffee

Session 3 – Economic and Cultural Uses, Silviculture, and Conservation

9:00 - 9:30        Silviculture and conservation of Alaska yellow-cedar on the Tongass - Sheila Spores

9:30 - 10:00      Status, utilization and silviculture of yellow-cedar on private lands in southeast Alaska – Brian Kleinhenz

10:00 - 10:30    Is yellow-cedar being overtutilized in Alaska? - Sue Bishop

10:30 - 11:00    Discussion

Session 4 - Outlook and Future Scenarios

11:00 - 11:30    Long-term vegetation changes in forests impacted by yellow-cedar decline, future vulnerability, and implications of the climate-induced dieback for human uses and values - Lauren Oakes

11:30 - 12:00    Research and monitoring opportunities in managed and unmanaged landscapes that correspond with yellow-cedar’s health status - Paul Hennon

1:00 – 1:30       Microclimate drivers of decline, regeneration, and forest compositional shifts in yellow-cedar forests of southeast Alaska – Sarah Bisbing

1:30 – 2:00       Yellow-cedar regeneration at the edges of its range - John Krapek

2:00 – 2:30       Chasing the grey ghosts: Ecological anomalies of Haida Gwaii cause a conservation planning nightmare – Nick Reynolds

2:30 - 3:00        Nightmare on cedar street? Climate projections for yellow-cedar mortality across the entire range - Brian Buma

3:00 – 5:00       Discussion: Remaining Questions and Research Needs

New publication: Yellow-cedar community ecology and conservation concerns

The ecological story of yellow-cedar is interesting not only as an interesting species that shapes the biogeochemical and community ecology of its surroundings, but also from a conservation point of view, as the advanced cedar stands which represent the northern range edge are the best sign of an ability to migrate with climate change - except they aren't moving.  A new publication explores these community and regeneration aspects in depth:

Krapek J, Buma B.  Persistence following punctuated range extension: limited dispersal of migrating tree despite habitat ahead of its range.  Journal of Ecology.  In press.

Two graduate opportunities- PhD in fire ecology, MS in landslide ecology; both carbon and community ecology focused

Two exciting new opportunities are available in the Buma lab.  Both are funded.  Both focus on carbon dynamics in very significant, C-dense forest ecosystems, and how multiple disturbances can interact to create interesting new vegetation and C changes.

First, the PhD position:

A PhD position is available starting Summer, 2018, with Dr. Brian Buma at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Southeast.  This exciting opportunity will take the student throughout Alaska, and focus on the interaction between multiple wildfires and subsequent changes to carbon and permafrost cycling.  The PhD position is part of a large, multi-institution effort (UAS, UAF, Florida, Portland State) to link vegetation resilience, permafrost changes, and carbon cycling dynamics into high spatial resolution modeling framework to forecast the effects of climate change on high latitude, boreal systems.

The position will entail:

Extensive fieldwork in Interior Alaska, focusing on plant regeneration after 1-3 fires
Carbon cycle accounting
Assistance with permafrost and soil measurements
Coordination with modeling researchers
Charcoal and black carbon quantification (lab based)
GIS/remote sensing

Applicants should have a Bachelors and/or Masters degree in biology, environmental science, chemistry, or other quantitative field.  Ideally, applicants will also have field experience and be comfortable in remote locations for up to two weeks at a time.  The applicant should also be independent, self-motivated, and excited to take on a challenging project that will help shape our understanding of climate change in boreal systems world-wide.  The paid position will begin with fieldwork in Summer, 2018, before progressing to graduate classes in Fall, 2018.

The position will be partially based in Fairbanks, Alaska (initially) and then Juneau, Alaska. Both towns offer a unique, Alaskan experience.  Fairbanks is known for its research university, boreal forest setting, and cold, clear winters; Juneau for its coastal temperate rainforests, salmon, glaciers, and bears.

Please contact Dr. Brian Buma (bbuma@alaska.edu) for more information.  Include your CV and letter of introduction, and please check out the lab website (www.brianbuma.com) for more information on other projects going on in the lab.

Boreal forest fire

Boreal forest fire

 

Second, the MS position:

A Masters position is available starting Fall 2018, with Dr. Brian Buma at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Southeast.  This exciting opportunity will take the student throughout Alaska, focusing on one of the most pristine forest ecosystems in the world, the coastal temperate rainforests.  The MS position, funded for two years, will focus on the role that landslides and windstorms have in shaping the distribution of carbon via extensive fieldwork and coordination with modeling scientists at Portland State University.  This research project is significant not only from an ecosystem/carbon perspective, but also because landslides are a significant threat to life and property in many parts of the world, including locally, and skills learned here will transfer not only to research and academic positions but also NGO’s, governmental and natural disaster organizations, and others.

Fieldwork will primarily be located in Sitka, Alaska, through the Sitka Sound Science center.  Sitka, one of the oldest (non-Native) towns in Alaska, is a beautiful town on the Pacific coast, known for its old-growth forests, brown bears, and beautiful views.

The position will entail:
Extensive fieldwork in coastal Alaska, focusing on carbon dynamics and distributions
Soil depth and type measurements
Coordination with modeling researchers
GIS/remote sensing

Applicants should have a Bachelors degree in biology, environmental science, chemistry, or other quantitative field.  Ideally, applicants will also have field experience, OK traveling by boat and float plane, and be comfortable in remote locations for up to two weeks at a time.  The applicant should also be independent, self-motivated, and excited to take on a challenging project that will help shape our understanding of forest disturbance and change processes.  The position will begin in Fall, 2018, through the School of Natural Resources and Extension at UAF.

The academic year will be partially based in Fairbanks, Alaska (first year) and then Juneau, Alaska (second year). Both towns offer a unique, Alaskan experience.  Fairbanks is known for its research university, boreal forest setting, and cold, clear winters; Juneau for its coastal temperate rainforests, ecotourism, salmon, glaciers, and bears.

Please contact Dr. Brian Buma (bbuma@alaska.edu) for more information.  Include your CV and letter of introduction, and please check out the lab website (www.brianbuma.com) for more information on other projects going on in the lab.

New publication: Ongoing species migration due to historical (and current) climate change

Determining the rate of species spread at leading range edges (and contraction at trailing edges) is critically important to projections of species survival under climate change - conservation and management are all contingent on those estimates.  Some species are projected to move rapidly, but we're lacking a lot of contemporary studies of ongoing migration of dominant forest species.  There are lots of paleo records of historical movement, but less so of contemporary migration, because in many cases it's been accomplished.  Few cases of current movement - not from anthropogenic warming, but warming after the last major glaciation (circa 15,000 years ago) - are documented.  Lodgepole pine is one, and it's very interesting - another is Alaska yellow-cedar.  

The Alaska system can tell us quite a bit about how potentially dominant, canopy species move through intact forests - not an easy task.  It's one thing to move into recently deglaciated landscapes, or during periods of disturbance (like lodgepole).  What about intact and healthy, functioning ecosystems?  Are they more or less difficult to migrate through?  It's not an easy task.  Intact ecosystems are tight places, and most resources are spoken for.  It's also challenging to study.

First, John had to determine if yellow-cedar was indeed migrating, as hypothesized.  It appears that Alaska yellow-cedar is moving north, and has been, since the last Ice Age.  A recent paper by John Krapek, who did this work while a Masters student in the lab, now outlines that leading range edge and documents the extent to which the species has yet to move - in essence, the rate at which cedar is lagging behind climate.  Yellow-cedar appears to pulse forward, rather than smoothly tracking climate, with the pulse being dependent on snowy conditions - specifically the Little Ice Age a few centuries ago.  This is not good news, as those conditions are becoming more and more rare.

Through multiple lines of investigation, John was able to trace the establishment of leading populations of yellow-cedar (small groups ahead of the main range of the species) and model the overall available niche, as well as look forward to see if the landscape will remain hospitable.  It's a great read.

Krapek J, Hennon PE, D'Amore DV, Buma B.  Despite available habitat at range edge, yellow-cedar migration is punctuated with a past pulse tied to colder conditions. Diversity and Distributions.  In press.

The northerly edge of Alaska yellow-cedar is comprised of small populations north of the main range boundary.  These stands (from 1-50+ trees) are small, isolated, and represent migration due to climate warming - and can tell us quite a bit about the rate of migration and how species move through intact ecosystems.  This figure shows estimates for when those stands established (minimums).  The leading edge appears to be comprised of populations which got their start near the tail end of the Little Ice Age.  

The northerly edge of Alaska yellow-cedar is comprised of small populations north of the main range boundary.  These stands (from 1-50+ trees) are small, isolated, and represent migration due to climate warming - and can tell us quite a bit about the rate of migration and how species move through intact ecosystems.  This figure shows estimates for when those stands established (minimums).  The leading edge appears to be comprised of populations which got their start near the tail end of the Little Ice Age.  

New NSF grant will explore the dynamics of landslides, wind, and carbon in the dense forests of Alaska

A newly funded collaborative project between the University of Alaska Southeast and Portland State University is going to explore the role of landslides and wind disturbances in landscape carbon distribution.  Landslides move a lot of debris - most people think of them as primarily a movement of earth, but in some areas (forests) they move a ton of carbon, in the soil yes, but also in the trees they bring down.

Starrigaven landslide, photo Sitka Conservation Society

Starrigaven landslide, photo Sitka Conservation Society

The role of those debris in controlling how the landslide moves and travels is relatively unknown, and so Adam Booth, a geologist at PSU, is going to be building a modeling framework to incorporate woody debris into landslide mechanics.  Meanwhile, I will be leading an effort to explore the carbon implications of those movements and incorporate that into the model as well.  When completed, we will then model the entire landscape to understand what role these disturbances play (over long time spans) in the spatial distribution and movement of carbon in these world-class carbon storehouses.

Kramer landslide in Sitka, 2015.  It killed three people.  Photo KCAW.

Kramer landslide in Sitka, 2015.  It killed three people.  Photo KCAW.

There's more implications here than just carbon and forests.  Landslides kill people, and have recently, in southeast Alaska and around the world.  Many cities, in the US and abroad, are exposed to landslides. By being able to better predict their movement, travel distance, and route, as well as how the forest plays a role in stability or destructiveness, we will be better able to help municipalities plan for these natural events (only expected to get worse as climate change increases the frequency of intense rainfall events in many locations).

New publication on aspen seedling establishment explores the boundaries of spatial modeling

Work led by Nathan Gill was recently accepted for publication, focusing on how aspen seedling establishment in the southern Rockies - so often said to be rare or insignificant compared to sprouting - is really quite significant in some cases.  In the case of multiple, compound disturbance environments, perhaps its even more important, as the intense disturbances render all other forms of regeneration worthless.

Gill, other colleagues, and myself pooled data to put together a very large, spatially explicit dataset on aspen regeneration which we then compared to disturbance history.  Several methods for modeling the spatial distribution were tried as well, to give a sense of how and where aspen are recovering.  It really does appear that seed dispersal, not resprouting, is key to revegetation after fires.  This implies (though not explored directly) that post-fire weather and climate is similarly important, as aspen seeds require fairly mesic conditions to survive - so the story only gets more complex!

Gill N, Kulakowski D, Sangermano F, Buma B.    Populus tremuloides seedling establishment: An underexplored vector for forest type conversion after multiple disturbances.  Forest Ecology and Management.  In press.

GLORIA site install

Last week we established the first GLORIA site in the coastal mountain system of Alaska, and the first in the broader region as well.  GLORIA, short for Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (http://www.gloria.ac.at/), is a worldwide network of sites where research is conducted in identical fashions - effectively replicating a single study design around the world.  It's immensely powerful, because it means that by creating a GLORIA site, you immediately buy into a much larger effort, coordinating your work with hundreds of other researchers around the globe:  

Our sites were put in over the first week of July, with help from a variety of people and agencies, including the Juneau Icefield Research Project (http://juneauicefield.com/), the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, US Fish & Wildlife, the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center, the US Forest Service, and others.  The sites span Blackerby Ridge in Juneau, and we had excellent weather installing the sites (though the hike down was a different story).

The sites will be revisited on a five year basis to monitor how plant communities are adapting to climate change.  We expect that warmer-condition plants will gradually move uphill over time, as has been observed in Europe and the lower 48; perhaps faster as rates of warming are exceptionally high in Alaska. By precisely documenting these effects, we can follow not only biodiversity, but also biogeochemical changes, the interactions between plants, and even the role of local human activity in these changes.

Various pictures from the upper site, a middle site, and camp.

National Geographic story on our Glacier Bay research

The story of Glacier Bay made it to National Geographic - the work of re-establishing the longest running plot network of its kind in the world is of pretty broad interest, and you can read their take on it here:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/05/glacier-bay-plant-succession-study-william-skinner-cooper-buma/

National Geographic sponsored the work, and I'm greatly indebted to them for their support, as well as Glenn Wright, Sarah Bisbing, and John Krapek, who were along on not only the field portion but intimately involved in the writing and publishing of the data as well.  The project is planned to continue this summer with an expansion of the plots, dating of the trees, and collections to better understand the representative nature of the 101 year record.  

Home sweet home for a portion of the trip, a small floathouse w/ two beds and floor space for another two.

Home sweet home for a portion of the trip, a small floathouse w/ two beds and floor space for another two.