Summary of findings, management options, and interactionsThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Forests in the Southern United States are likely to be very different in the coming decades as a result of climate change. Maintaining resilience and restoring forest ecosystems to ensure a continuing supply of ecosystem services will be a major challenge in the twenty-first century. Fortunately, most forests have inherent resistance and resilience to climatic variability and disturbances. Historically, land managers have been able to leverage these characteristics, shaped by management and on-the-ground experiences, to buffer the effects of climatic stresses and disturbances on forest health and productivity. As noted in the previous chapters, the natural resource community in the Southern United States is not operating in a vacuum of scientific knowledge or management experience. Clear examples include the use of prescribed fire and tree breeding for insect and disease resistance. Despite this history and decades of practical experience, the rapid pace and magnitude of climate change may exceed the inherent resistance and resiliency of forest ecosystems and pose new management challenges that go beyond current knowledge and experience. Among those challenges will be identifying areas where forests are most vulnerable, determining where the effects of change could be the greatest and the most detrimental, and developing and implementing management activities to increase resilience and resistance or to facilitate a transition to a new condition (Millar et al. 2007).
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