Forest tree genetic risk assessment system: a tool for conservation decision-making in changing times
PARTNERS: North Carolina State University (NCSU), USDA Forest Service Forest Health Protection, USDA Forest Service National Forest System Region 8 (Southern Region) and Region 6 (Pacific Northwest Region), USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service Forest Health Monitoring Program
SUMMARY: A variety of threats, most importantly climate change and insect and disease infestation, will increase the risk that forest trees could experience population-level or species-level extinction. Species, however, differ in important traits such as life-history strategies and population dynamics, which could drive widely varying responses to potential threats. To address this challenge, a cooperating scientist with the Eastern Threat Center is helping lead a national effort to prioritize forest tree species for conservation, management and monitoring in the face of multiple threats.
Scientists and natural resource managers from all three deputy areas of the USDA Forest Service are cooperating on the project, a national multi-scale prioritization of forest tree species and populations for genetic conservation and monitoring. Project CAPTURE (Conservation Assessment and Prioritization of Forest Trees Under Risk of Extirpation) will prioritize forest tree species for monitoring, conservation and management actions based on identified threats to species and their life history characteristics. The foundation of the effort is the Forest Tree Genetic Risk Assessment System (ForGRAS), which has been used to prioritize species for National Forest System conservation actions in the Southern Appalachian region and in the Pacific Northwest.
EFETAC’S ROLE: The project is supported by Eastern Threat Center funding.
PROGRESS: Project CAPTURE consists of three phases. The first phase, which is ongoing, focuses on the prioritization of forest tree species within the National Forest System. This is incorporating the participation and expertise of forest geneticists, ecologists, silviculturists, entomologists, and pathologists, who are meeting in a workshop to evaluate the genetic resources of forest tree species through the application of a prioritization framework. In the second phase, the assessment will expand to include the approximately 340 native tree species inventoried by the Forest Inventory and Analysis program within the contiguous United States, with the participation of experts and partners outside the Forest Service. The final phase will focus on the selection of high-risk species, within which scientists will identify specific areas most in need of conservation activity and monitoring.
Six species-intrinsic risk factors for genetic vulnerability are included in the assessment. Variables for each factor are noted here, along with whether higher values are expected to be associated with greater genetic vulnerability (↑) or less genetic vulnerability (↓), as outlined in the listed reference. Click image to enlarge.
Two species-external risk factors for genetic vulnerability are included in the assessment. Variables for each factor are noted here, along with whether higher values are expected to be associated with greater genetic vulnerability (↑) or less genetic vulnerability (↓), as outlined in the listed reference. Click image to enlarge.
Devine, W., Aubry, C., Miller, J., Potter, K.M., and Bower, A. 2012. Climate change and forest trees in the Pacific Northwest: guide to vulnerability assessment methodology. Olympia, Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region. 49 p. http://ecoshare.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/CCFT_Methodology.pdf.
This research has been described in a number of presentations.
CONTACT: Kevin Potter, NCSU Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 549-4071
Updated February 2014