Adaptive Forest Management to Protect Stream Habitat
From 2017 – 2019, Chagrin River Watershed Partners coordinated a project to enhance the health and resilience of 500 acres of forests near high quality, primarily groundwater-fed coldwater stream habitats in the Chagrin and lower Grand River watersheds. Many of these streams are part of steep ravine habitats with cooler temperatures that may serve as critical refugia for wildlife in our changing climate. Ecosystems in areas of high landscape complexity are more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Northeast Ohio has many eastern hemlock-dominated ravine systems that provide shade, moderate stream temperatures and provide high-quality habitat for salamanders, coldwater fish, and ravine bird populations like the winter wren and dark-eyed junco. Forest management helps ensure that these systems stay healthy for the future. Portions of the following properties were managed through this project: The Holden Arboretum, Lake Metroparks’ Indian Point and Penitentiary Glen, Cleveland Metroparks’ North Chagrin Reservation, and Cleveland Metroparks’ South Chagrin Reservation.
Forests provide clean water, wildlife habitat, scenic landscapes, and recreational opportunities. However, our forests face an uncertain future, with many challenges such as invasive plants, insects, and diseases, over-browsing by deer, warming temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns. These stressors can also interact with each other, increasing the importance of responsible, science-based forest management to ensure that forests stay healthy for the future. Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service, the Wilderness Center, The Nature Conservancy, and The Ohio State University provided site-specific forest management guidance. Forest management activities on the Metroparks and Arboretum properties included girdling and timber harvest to favor the best-formed and healthiest trees and create light gaps for regeneration, planting native understory species, managing invasive species, and building deer exclosures to prevent over-browse. Partners worked to create conditions favorable for tree species projected to do well under future climate conditions. Lake Metroparks also treated eastern hemlocks, which are critical for shading coldwater streams, for pests including the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and the Elongate Hemlock Scale. Monitoring completed by Lake Metroparks has shown new, unaffected growth of hemlocks and no additional infestations. Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District evaluated headwater stream habitat and conducted surveys of salamanders and macroinvertebrates so partners can better understand long-term conditions and adaptively manage the forests. These projects serve as a model for future forest management throughout the region.
A Model for the Region:
Conservation organizations in Northeast Ohio are helping the region’s forests and coldwater streams adapt to the impacts of climate change and empowering communities and landowners to take action that will safeguard our region’s wildlife habitat for the future. The project approach was shared through the Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity landowner workshops held at Holden Arboretum. Think Media Studios also produced a video about the value of healthy forests in our region: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32E0H-XV4s4.
Funders and Partners:
This project, “Targeted Riparian Forest Adaptation to Protect Coldwater Streams,” was funded in part by the Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund through the Doris Duke Foundation. Project partners and local funders included Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, The Holden Arboretum, Cleveland Metroparks, Lake Metroparks, Geauga Park District, Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District (Ohio), Lake County, OH: Stormwater Management Department, Western Reserve Land Conservancy-Dominion watershed mini-grant program, Village of Gates Mills, Village of Moreland Hills, Think Media Studios, Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity, the Wilderness Center, Cleveland Museum of Natural History Trout Club and Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders. The $181,152 grant awarded by the Wildlife Conservation Society was matched with $184,123 in cash and in-kind services ended in November 2019.
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