On Wednesday, Feb. 12, members of the University of Maine faculty gathered for the Forest Climate Change Science and Practice Forum at the Wells Conference Center. The forum was an opportunity for members of the faculty to share their insights into the climate science research going on at UMaine, as well as an opportunity for faculty to connect with those conducting similar research.
Speaking at Wednesday’s event were Jay Wason, Amber Roth, Erin Simons-Legaard, Keith Kanoti, Adam Daigneault, Alyssa Soucy and Sandra De Urioste-Stone. Ivan Fernandez, who was named the 2007 Distinguished Maine Professor and was appointed last year to the Maine Climate Council, spoke at the event with updates on the council’s decisions for the coming year.
The forum served as an opportunity to share a multidisciplinary approach to climate issues, with speakers representing the fields of forest ecology, forest operations and management, socioeconomics and communications. Each speaker discussed ways in which their fields contribute to management or adaptation in the face of climate change and noted that there are many ways in which climate change is affecting non-traditional fields, which requires interdisciplinary cooperation.
During the presentation by Wason, an assistant professor of forest ecosystem ecology, the major talking points highlighted that because of climate change forest management practices were being updated and constantly evaluated.
“Because of the changing climate … there are changing weather patterns in central Maine,” Wason said. “Central Maine is acting like a different environment [than it used to], and we have to learn to adapt to that.”
Wason also discussed how, because of the changing global climate, more areas are experiencing localized extreme weather events, such as ice and wind storms, which can disrupt forest management practices. These challenges require more specialized approaches to forest management in order to preserve forest health and ensure a healthy forest in the future.
Wason noted that through forums and poster sharing opportunities, researchers are able to find what type of assistance other researchers need and are able to create an environment that would give rise to that assistance.
“We are still responding to weather, not responding to climate. These are still day to day operations,” Wason said. “We want more dependable weather forecasts so that we can more efficiently [approach] forest management.”
Fernandez updated the faculty on the endeavors of the Maine Climate Council once he was invited to present. He discussed the projects that had been occurring around the state in the last 30 years which were helping to study long-term effects of climate factors on Maine environments. Fernandez discussed the Bear Brook Watershed project, which is located in Down East Maine and is used as an environmental study on acid deposition.
“This kind of research allows for science-informed policymaking,” Fernandez said.
He also noted that these types of research projects help scientists and officials develop plans for mitigation that benefit the ecosystem, as well as the organizations and people involved in those ecosystems.
“Currently, the Maine Climate Council is working towards preliminary recommendations for the final report in order to continue to work going forward,” Fernandez said. “The report includes instruction on natural lands management, as well as setting parameters for other sectors.”
Wednesday’s forum was an important opportunity for members of the UMaine community, as it allowed researchers the opportunity to better assess ways in which to integrate knowledge from other fields into their own approach to climate change, as well as offering the opportunity for graduate researchers to gain a deeper understanding of climate research at UMaine.
For those interested in attending a Climate Change Forum, there will be a forum open to the public held on May 14-15 in Rangeley, Maine. To find out more information on the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests, visit their page at https://crsf.umaine.edu/.