Berkeley Forests: We Harvest Knowledge

Meeting the challenges

Berkeley has long been involved in engaging California’s populations with its forests. We continue to produce a steady stream of graduates and knowledge that began with our first class of forestry graduates (1914), oldest permanent forest plots (1915), and longest running forestry summer camp (1917) in the Western United States. California’s forests provide protection for our major watersheds, renewable wood products, fish and wildlife habitat, scenic and recreational opportunities and a wide array of climate benefits. Ensuring that our working forests continue to provide essential ecosystem and climate benefits over the next century will be a major challenge. Global climate change will have far reaching impacts on forest ecosystems. Conservation in this era of change is confronted by the reality that no ecosystem, no matter how remote or wild, is protected. It is essential to develop and test appropriate management strategies for forested watersheds that will flourish under different climate change scenarios. Active research is needed to better understand the interactions of the changing climate and changing social needs on the growth and yields of timber species; water supply and quality; greenhouse gas fluxes related to forest vegetation, soils and harvested wood products; current and future risks from fires, air pollution, pests and diseases; and how all of these will affect rare plant and animal species.

With our legacy forests and the proposed additions from the PG&E settlement lands, we are addressing these questions within a research framework where hypotheses are proposed, vetted, and implemented as forest management trials with treated and untreated examples. A mix of long-term research installations, short-term field experiments, and natural controls provides the breadth examples that are necessary to best understand how forest management can evolve over the coming century.

Spreading the word

In addition to using our facilities as living laboratories for educational visitors, our expanding advisory group includes a broad array of entities to guide Berkeley’s work on sustainability within the unfolding framework of climate change. These new members bring experience as land stewards who manage lands from wilderness reserves to urban park districts as well as spokespeople who interact with diverse California residents. In addition to our research and forest management colleagues we will be adding representatives from family ownerships, land trusts, water districts, parks districts, conservation groups, and urban based environmental educational and membership organizations.  The challenges faced by these private and public entities in managing forest lands will inform the research and management that will meet the needs of varied users who both use forest products and value many aspects of forests.