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Title: Northern forest winters have lost cold, snowy conditions that are important for ecosystems and human communities

Abstract

Winter is a key period for the socio-ecological systems of northeastern North American forests. A growing awareness of the importance of the winter season to forest ecosystems and surrounding communities has inspired several decades of research, both across the northern forest and at other mid- and high-latitude ecosystems around the globe. Despite these efforts, we lack a synthetic understanding of how winter climate change may impact hydrological and biogeochemical processes and the social and economic activities they support. Here we take advantage of 100 years of meteorological observations across the northern forest region of the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada to develop a suite of indicators that enable a cross-cutting understanding of 1) how winter temperatures and snow cover have been changing and 2) how these shifts may impact both ecosystems and surrounding human communities. We show that cold and snow-covered conditions have generally decreased over the past 100 years. These trends suggest positive outcomes for tree health as related to reduced fine root mortality and nutrient loss associated with winter frost but negative outcomes as related to the northward advancement and proliferation of forest insect pests. In addition to effects on vegetation, reductions in cold temperatures and snow covermore » are likely to have negative impacts on the ecology of the northern forest through impacts on water, soils, and wildlife. The overall loss of coldness and snow cover may also have negative consequences for logging and forest products, vector-borne diseases and human health, recreation and tourism, and cultural practices, which together represent important social and economic dimensions for the northern forest region. These findings advance our understanding of how our changing winters may transform the socio- ecological system of a region that has been defined by the contrasting rhythm of the seasons. Our research also identifies a trajectory of change that informs our expectations for the future as the climate continues to warm.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2];  [3];  [4]; ORCiD logo [5]; ORCiD logo [1];  [6]; ORCiD logo [7];  [8];  [9];  [4];  [10]; ORCiD logo [11];  [12]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [13];  [14];  [15]
  1. Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham, NH (United States)
  2. Univ. of Winnepeg, MB (Canada)
  3. Hubbard Brook Research Foundation, Woodstock VT (United States)
  4. Univ. of Maine, Orono, ME (United States)
  5. Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (United States)
  6. USDA Forest Service, Durham, NH (United States)
  7. Univ. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK (Canada)
  8. Trent Univ., Peterborough, ON (Canada)
  9. Paul Smith's College, Paul Smiths, NY (United States)
  10. Cary Inst. of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY (United States)
  11. US Geological Survey, Augusta, ME (United States)
  12. Univ. of Maine, Orono, ME (United States); Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
  13. City Univ. of New York (CUNY), NY (United States)
  14. Boston Univ., MA (United States)
  15. United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc., Nashville, TN (United States); Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Pacific Northwest National Lab, Richland, WA (United States); Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC); National Science Foundation (NSF); Northeastern States Research Cooperative (NSRC); Hubbard Brook Research Foundation; Canaday Family Charitable Trust; Lintilhac Foundation; Davis Conservation Foundation
OSTI Identifier:
1623527
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1755170
Report Number(s):
PNNL-SA-143143
Journal ID: ISSN 1051-0761
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC05-76RL01830; 1637685
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Ecological Applications
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 29; Journal Issue: 7; Journal ID: ISSN 1051-0761
Publisher:
Ecological Society of America
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; climate change; indicator; northern forest; snow; temperature; winter

Citation Formats

Contosta, Alexandra R., Casson, Nora J., Garlick, Sarah, Nelson, Sarah J., Ayres, Matthew P., Burakowski, Elizabeth A., Campbell, John, Creed, Irena, Eimers, Catherine, Evans, Celia, Fernandez, Ivan, Fuss, Colin, Huntington, Thomas, Patel, Kaizad, Sanders‐DeMott, Rebecca, Son, Kyongho, Templer, Pamela, and Thornbrugh, Casey. Northern forest winters have lost cold, snowy conditions that are important for ecosystems and human communities. United States: N. p., 2019. Web. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1974.
Contosta, Alexandra R., Casson, Nora J., Garlick, Sarah, Nelson, Sarah J., Ayres, Matthew P., Burakowski, Elizabeth A., Campbell, John, Creed, Irena, Eimers, Catherine, Evans, Celia, Fernandez, Ivan, Fuss, Colin, Huntington, Thomas, Patel, Kaizad, Sanders‐DeMott, Rebecca, Son, Kyongho, Templer, Pamela, & Thornbrugh, Casey. Northern forest winters have lost cold, snowy conditions that are important for ecosystems and human communities. United States. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1974
Contosta, Alexandra R., Casson, Nora J., Garlick, Sarah, Nelson, Sarah J., Ayres, Matthew P., Burakowski, Elizabeth A., Campbell, John, Creed, Irena, Eimers, Catherine, Evans, Celia, Fernandez, Ivan, Fuss, Colin, Huntington, Thomas, Patel, Kaizad, Sanders‐DeMott, Rebecca, Son, Kyongho, Templer, Pamela, and Thornbrugh, Casey. Tue . "Northern forest winters have lost cold, snowy conditions that are important for ecosystems and human communities". United States. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1974. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1623527.
@article{osti_1623527,
title = {Northern forest winters have lost cold, snowy conditions that are important for ecosystems and human communities},
author = {Contosta, Alexandra R. and Casson, Nora J. and Garlick, Sarah and Nelson, Sarah J. and Ayres, Matthew P. and Burakowski, Elizabeth A. and Campbell, John and Creed, Irena and Eimers, Catherine and Evans, Celia and Fernandez, Ivan and Fuss, Colin and Huntington, Thomas and Patel, Kaizad and Sanders‐DeMott, Rebecca and Son, Kyongho and Templer, Pamela and Thornbrugh, Casey},
abstractNote = {Winter is a key period for the socio-ecological systems of northeastern North American forests. A growing awareness of the importance of the winter season to forest ecosystems and surrounding communities has inspired several decades of research, both across the northern forest and at other mid- and high-latitude ecosystems around the globe. Despite these efforts, we lack a synthetic understanding of how winter climate change may impact hydrological and biogeochemical processes and the social and economic activities they support. Here we take advantage of 100 years of meteorological observations across the northern forest region of the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada to develop a suite of indicators that enable a cross-cutting understanding of 1) how winter temperatures and snow cover have been changing and 2) how these shifts may impact both ecosystems and surrounding human communities. We show that cold and snow-covered conditions have generally decreased over the past 100 years. These trends suggest positive outcomes for tree health as related to reduced fine root mortality and nutrient loss associated with winter frost but negative outcomes as related to the northward advancement and proliferation of forest insect pests. In addition to effects on vegetation, reductions in cold temperatures and snow cover are likely to have negative impacts on the ecology of the northern forest through impacts on water, soils, and wildlife. The overall loss of coldness and snow cover may also have negative consequences for logging and forest products, vector-borne diseases and human health, recreation and tourism, and cultural practices, which together represent important social and economic dimensions for the northern forest region. These findings advance our understanding of how our changing winters may transform the socio- ecological system of a region that has been defined by the contrasting rhythm of the seasons. Our research also identifies a trajectory of change that informs our expectations for the future as the climate continues to warm.},
doi = {10.1002/eap.1974},
journal = {Ecological Applications},
number = 7,
volume = 29,
place = {United States},
year = {2019},
month = {7}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
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Figures / Tables:

FIG. 1 FIG. 1: Map of study area. Points indicate locations of weather stations included in the analysis located within as defined by Level II ecoregion classifications. Vertical lines show three subregions delineated for the purpose of examining broad spatial differences among trends.

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Cultural impacts to tribes from climate change influences on forests
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    Works referencing / citing this record:

    Winter Weather Whiplash: Impacts of Meteorological Events Misaligned With Natural and Human Systems in Seasonally Snow‐Covered Regions
    journal, December 2019

    • Casson, N. J.; Contosta, A. R.; Burakowski, E. A.
    • Earth's Future, Vol. 7, Issue 12
    • DOI: 10.1029/2019ef001224

      Figures/Tables have been extracted from DOE-funded journal article accepted manuscripts.