Taking the Long View at the Francis Marion National Forest

The Francis Marion National Forest (Francis Marion) is currently revising its land and resource management plan under the National Forest System 2012 Planning Rule. The new rule requires climate change be taken into account and supports an adaptive framework based on science, public values, and the all-lands context for resource management.

Located adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the major metropolitan area of Charleston, South Carolina, the Francis Marion serves as an important ecological and economic centerpiece in the American South, but projected urban expansion, increasing demands on resources, rising seas, and a changing climate are becoming challenging issues for forest planners — and may impact the ability of the Forest to provide the goods and services that people want and need.

At first glance, revising the plan in relation to these factors seems a tall order for any forest or land manager to tackle. Climate and non-climate drivers are broad in scope, not necessarily predictable, and will significantly vary among management units. Juggling daily demands while keeping up with current climate science which can be linked to management or planning actions to the specific resources under their charge is more than overwhelming – it’s downright scary.

Fortunately, they don’t have to do it alone. Scientists from the U.S. Forest Southern Research Station (SRS) are working with partners from the National Forest System and the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) to identify common priorities. “There are considerable opportunities for coordinated landscape-scale monitoring that could be done in collaboration with other agencies and university partners,” noted Carl Trettin, team lead of the SRS Center for Forested Wetlands Research. Trettin, Emrys Treasure (biological scientist at the SRS Eastern Forest Threat Environmental Assessment Center), Mary Morrison (land planner at the National Forest), and Lori Barrow (Forest Service liaison to the South Atlantic LCC), are working together on the project. “Our key objective is not only to get science into the hands of managers,” said Barrow. “It’s improving management and conservation at a variety of spatial scales, from site-specific management projects, to regional, national, and international evaluations.”

To that end, Treasure, a lead developer of the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options tool, and Barrow spent the past year helping staff on the Francis Marion apply scientific findings to various ecosystems and resources. They produced a number of key reports and documents that link regional monitoring and modeling with finer, site-specific needs, including an assessment of the potential effects of climate change on the Francis Marion National Forest.  Barrow also developed a report exploring existing and potential collaboration opportunities between the Forest Service, neighboring land management groups and regional partners.

“Deliberately considering how the Francis Marion fits into the broader landscape has tremendous value,” said Treasure. “The National Forest and the broader network of partners are focusing on similar management challenges in a changing climate.”

Read the original article on the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative website.

For more information, email Lori Barrow at lori@southatlanticlcc.org

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