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Extreme Weather and Forest Management in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States

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Projected climate change could have major effects on forest management because of the potential for increased frequency, duration, and/or severity of extreme weather events. We surveyed public and private forestland management groups in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States to better understand current interactions between extreme weather events and forest land management and to help predict future impacts. Our questionnaire addressed the importance and types of problems created by extreme weather events, the coping strategies employed to mitigate problems, and the overall economic effects of extreme weather. Responses were received from 322 forest managers/users (54% response rate) primarily representing state natural resources agencies, forestry consulting firms, large industrial forestry companies and smaller logging companies. Overall, respondents rated the impacts of extreme weather on their operations as low to modest; however, over 20% experienced “major” effects because of extreme weather over the past 10 yr. The highest rated impacts were: (1) reduced access to forestland because of flooding, deep snow, or wind- and ice-damaged trees; (2) increased costs for road and facility maintenance, and (3) direct damage to trees by wind, snow, or ice and subsequent effects on timber supplies and market prices. Mitigation strategies most commonly mentioned were switching of silvicultural systems and changing site preparation and planting schemes, but most respondents had not altered their management due to extreme weather. When asked about effects of a hypothetical 25% increase in severe weather, the most common mitigation strategy was increased investment in new equipment and facilities. Short-term economic impacts of severe weather varied between “supply increasing” conditions associated with increased tree damage and salvage operations and “supply decreasing” conditions related to reduced access to forest land. Increased severe weather due to climate change can be expected to have small to modest effects on forest management and users overall, but areas subjected to hurricanes and ice storms within the Mid-Atlantic region appear to be more sensitive to impacts of severe weather.

Keywords: Climate change; costs; drought; flooding; hurricanes; ice storms; income; mitigation strategies; snowfall; southern pine; upland hardwoods; windthrow

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: 1: School of Forest Resources, 2: Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University, 107 Land and Water Building, University Park, PA, 16802,

Publication date: 2003-06-01

More about this publication?
  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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