Interactions among climate, land use, ecosystem services, and society


New Hampshire EPSCoR: Partnerships for Research and Education

Duration and funding source: 5 years (August 2011 – July 2016) ; NSF

Personnel: R. Howarth (PI), M. Borsuk, R. Jones, S-J Huang (Dartmouth)

Synopsis: The scientific objective of the NH EPSCoR  is to understand how climate variability, climate change and human land use change affect the ability of New Hampshire landscapes to provide essential aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem services to the state and region across multiple scales.  Within this broad objective, our team is addressing the following specific research questions:

  1. How well do current and potential future forest management strategies balance the financial returns accruing to landowners with the nonmarket environmental and social benefits provided by forest ecosystems?
  2. How do additional ecosystem services alter earlier formal models of the tradeoffs between timber extraction and carbon sequestration in individual timber stands?
  3. What are the region-wide links between forest management strategies, services provided by aquatic ecosystems and indices of ecological and economic sustainability?

Progress: We are currently working to refine the model of timber growth, timber harvesting, and net carbon storage (in both forest ecosystems and harvested wood products) previously developed by Gutrich and Howarth (2007), extended to account for the impacts of changes in surface albedo. The model can be applied to various types of clear-cutting and partial harvesting management regimes. We will use the model to:  i) determine whether current forest management schemes are achieving optimal social and/or economic benefits from carbon sequestration, surface albedo effects, and aquatic services and ii) test various potential forest management regimes and policies to determine which will achieve an optimum of mix social, economic, and ecological benefits from timber harvests and/or carbon sequestration.

As a next step, we will explore the coupling between forest management practices and their downstream impacts on the services provided by aquatic ecosystems. Although these relationships are not easily reduced to economic measures of monetary value, tradeoffs between the values of timber harvesting, carbon sequestration, and services such as the maintenance of high-quality stream habitats that support fish populations and recreation can be analyzed using stakeholder methodologies, such as multicriteria decision analysis.