Project overview: Study and model forest location and health in Yosemite between 2050 and 2150 — based on projections of future climatic changes — to aid long-term forest and wildlife management priorities.

The backstory: Forests are rapidly changing in Yosemite. The scale and rapid pace of tree mortality in the park has caught the attention of visitors, park managers, and researchers. While projections of the impacts of a warmer climate promise prolonged droughts, higher temperatures, and more frequent and intense forest fires, resource managers do not currently understand how these changes will affect the park at the specificity and scale they need to take action. This lack of information limits Yosemite National Park’s ability to be proactive and make plans to protect forests and the wildlife that depend on them.

This year: Building on the donor-funded Forest Vulnerability and Health project completed in 2022, this work aims to fill a critical information gap. The project seeks to answer key questions: where in the park future forests will develop based on predicted temperature and precipitation? How will those forests respond and adapt to changing climate conditions? By modeling forest cover, park scientists can make inferences about habitat availability and connectivity, and predict the potential future distribution of threatened species such as the Pacific fisher, Yosemite toad, and sugar pine tree. These models will help the park assess how and whether to resist, direct, or accept impacts to various forests areas.

Predicting the state of Yosemite’s forests between the years of 2050 and 2150 might seem distant, but it is precisely this kind of forward-thinking research that has the potential to make a lasting impact and meaningfully protect Yosemite’s resources in the future climate.

Project partner: Yosemite National Park.

Chad Anderson

Resources Management and Science, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

“Developing an explicit understanding of where future forests are likely to occur will help in climate vulnerability assessments, inform predictions of future species’ habitats, and lay the foundation for active management to secure healthy forests into the future.”