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SE CASC & South Atlantic Spring/Summer Science Series

Join us via Zoom for this collaborative webinar series hosted by the Southeast CASC and the South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint team. The SE CASC South Atlantic Spring/Summer Science Series will take the place of the South Atlantic Third Thursday Web Forum for the spring and summer months. We hope you will join us as we highlight some of the SE CASC funded science projects relevant to conservation throughout the Southeast and South Atlantic region. Visit the South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint website here.

View past webinars in the series: 

Consequences of Urbanization and Climate Change on Human and Ecosystem Health
Dr. Steven Frank, NC State University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
April 16, 2020 | 10AM ET
View a recording of the presentation.

Urban forests provide well-documented environmental and societal benefits valued at more than four billion dollars per year in the United States. As cities expand onto land once occupied by rural forests, urban trees take on an even more vital role in mitigating global climate change, conserving biodiversity, and protecting human health. Maintaining the health of trees is challenging in cities and in forests under climate change because of tree stress and pests. Unhealthy trees do not provide adequate ecosystem services or conservation value compared to healthy trees. In this work we found that exotic trees can remain healthy and maintain biodiversity of arthropods (e.g. spiders and insects) that is similar to native trees, and in stressful locations exotic trees performed better. This information can help resource managers select the best tree species for different locations and goals. We also found that native insects can become invasive pests when exposed to the urban heat island effect or climate warming. As these pests become more abundant and expand their range they could threaten the health of forests. Scientists and resource managers can use our results to predict which species may become pests with climate change and can use cities as laboratories for understanding the effects of climate change.

Building Adaptive Capacity in a Coastal Region Experiencing Global Change
Dr. Mitchell Eaton, Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center
May 21, 2020 | 10AM ET
View a recording of the presentation.

Coastal ecosystems in the eastern U.S. have been severely altered by local processes resulting from human development and by global-scale ecological changes associated with climate change. These forces are degrading the capacity of ecological and social systems to respond to disturbance. The goal of this project was to foster active engagement with stakeholders and encourage building of effective networks and trust across organizations and individuals in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. We established the Cape Romain Partnership for Coastal Conservation, which included individuals from federal and state resource agencies, local conservation NGOs, and organizations representing underserved community interests. The Partnership members originated our research topics, which focused on quantifying key drivers of change – localized sea-level rise (SLR) predictions, estimates of hurricane inundation as amplified by SLR, urban growth trends and forecasts, and impacts on management. We also worked to inform coastal planning by modeling relationships between land-use change and flooding, ecosystem services, and forest management, incorporating the impacts of uncertainty and risk on long-term investments in land protection. Our focus was on the early phase of social engagement, by bringing together various conservation interests and using a variety of tools for co-production of knowledge and meaning, and by considering how the lessons learned could be helpful for engaging more diverse social interests. These interactions with Lowcountry planners and residents revealed a complex relationship between society and the environment, with sense of place, cultural heritage, and quality of life being important considerations for adaptation planning.

Clarifying Science Needs for Southeastern Grasslands: The Piedmont, Coastal Plain, and Beyond
Dr. Jennifer Cartwright, USGS Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center
Dr. Dwayne Estes, Southeastern Grasslands Initiative
Dr. Rua Mordecai, South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint

June 18, 2020 | 10AM ET
View a recording of the presentation.

Grasslands are plant communities that have few or no trees, or have open canopies that allow for the development of a grassy groundcover. Grasslands in the southeastern U.S. support rare plant and animal species and in some cases qualify as global or regional hotspots of biodiversity. Yet the Southeast’s grasslands have been reduced by approximately 90% since European settlement, as the result of agriculture, urbanization, and fire suppression. Today, climate change represents an additional stressor that may pose direct and indirect threats to grassland-related biodiversity. We will discuss results from a region-wide workshop of scientific and conservation professionals exploring the challenges to grassland species conservation in the southeastern U.S., with emphasis on clarifying the research and data needs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state agencies related to Species Status Assessments (SSAs) for imperiled grassland species. We will then focus in on challenges in the Piedmont – a region with one of the greatest declines in grasslands across the entire Southeast.

Perspectives on Prescribed Fire Management in Longleaf Pine Ecosystems: The Context of Landscape Transformation and Anthropogenic Climate Change
Dr. John Kupfer, University of South Carolina
July 16, 2020 | 10AM ET
View a recording of the presentation.

Longleaf pine ecosystems are iconic systems of the southeastern United States that historically contained a spectacular diversity of plants and animals. These habitats have, unfortunately, been degraded and reduced to a small fraction of their former extent through a century of landscape conversion, logging, and fire suppression. In response, many agencies, NGOs, private landowners and businesses have committed to longleaf pine restoration, with prescribed fire serving as one of the primary tools in such efforts. However, the use of prescribed fire to maintain or restore biodiversity and historic ecological conditions in longleaf pine ecosystems while also reducing wildfire risk may be increasingly difficult as the longleaf landscape is becoming more developed and projected climate changes are expected to restrict prescribed burning opportunities. Here, we present the initial results of a survey designed to provide baseline information on the criteria used for prioritizing potential burn sites, current burning practices and limitations, and expectations for future changes in burning constraints. Based on responses from more than 300 fire managers across the Southeast, our results clarify overall patterns and subregional trends in the seasonal and diurnal timing, goals, and associated risk calculations associated with their longleaf pine burn programs and point toward a number of challenges that regional fire managers expect to face over the next 50 years.

This presentation was approved for Continuing Forestry Education (CFE) credit from the Society of American Foresters.