Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park: 200 Years and Still Adapting Forests to Changing Conditions

Yes
Action
A climate change vulnerability assessment was developed for the Park's forests and used to inform forest management activities.

Project Area

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is a 550-acre park located east of Vermont's Green Mountains. The Park contains the Mount Tom Forest, which is the earliest surviving example of planned and managed reforestation in the country. It is a living exhibit that illustrates the evolution of forest stewardship in America, from the earliest scientific silvicultural practices borrowed from nineteenth-century Europe to contemporary practices of sustainable forest management. Nine of the plantations set out by Frederick Billings in the late 1800s still stand. Older trees, such as open-grown sugar maples and 400+ year-old hemlocks can still be found throughout the property.

Management Goals

Forest management on the Park strives to:

  • Maintain a sense of the Forest’s history through broad landscape patterns and representative historic features while working with ecological processes and continuing to apply best current thinking and practices in forest management.
  • Perpetuate the tradition of sustainable forest management on the property
  • Incorporate a long-term perspective on the changing composition and character of the Forest
  • Value the Forest as both a natural and cultural resource
  • Emphasize the relationship of the Park’s forest management to broader community well-being and sustainability
  • Strengthen civic engagement and stewardship

Climate Change Impacts

A conifer plantation with sunlight.
Concerned about the effect of climate change on National Parks in the eastern US, staff from the National Park Service (NPS) Climate Change Response Program led the development of climate change vulnerability assessments for several National Parks in the eastern U.S., including Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. These assessments provided park-level details regarding potential forest response to climate, differences in habitat projections among models, and nonnative biotic stressors (tree pests and diseases and invasive plants). The assessment for Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller provided locally-specific information about the climate change and forest pest vulnerability of the Mount Tom Forest, including the historic plantations. Some major impacts include:
Some northern tree species, including fir, aspen, and paper birch, are projected to have moderate to strong decreases in suitable habitat under two future climate scenarios, while many temperate species currently present are expected to retain suitable ha
There is great uncertainty regarding the potential effects of climate change on the planted European conifer species Norway spruce, Scots pine, and European larch. The available literature suggests that all three species are at some increased risk of decl
Efforts to prevent and remove invasive species in the Park have reduced the impact of these species, which can increase the adaptive capacity of desired forest species.
Forest pest impacts have been relatively moderate over the past 15 years, though expansion rates of species such as hemlock woolly adelgid and emerald ash borer threaten the park in the next two decades.

Adaptation Actions

Following the collection of scientific information about climate change and the Park, a meeting was held in May 2014 to consider how scientific information from the assessment could be integrated into Park activities in order to develop actionable steps to adapt forests at the Park to changing conditions and monitor outcomes. Participants represented the Park, the NPS Climate Change Response Program, the NPS Northeast Temperate Network I&M program, the NPS Northeast Region Office, Redstart Consulting, the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, the US Forest Service, and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify potential adaptation actions for this project, which are listed below.

The ideas that were generated from the use of the Adaptation Workbook were incorporated into a report on the Park's climate change vulnerability and adaptation actions. More recently, these ideas have been used in the development of multiple timber harvests and other projects, which have been implemented or are underway.

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Across the Park
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Continue existing work to prevent and remove invasive species.
Work with neighboring landowners to control invasive species.
Carriage Roads
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
Continue maintenance of roads, culverts, and other infrastructure.
Northern Hardwood Forest
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
9.2. Establish or encourage new mixes of native species.
Increase early-detection and monitoring efforts for hemlock wooly adelgid; continue EAB monitoring.
Identify hemlock trees of particular value (hemlock hedges, individual trees) for use of insecticide to maintain some hemlock trees as legacies into the future.
Create larger gaps during harvest to promote natural regeneration of a wider variety of tree species, including oaks.
Consider climate change effects on sites and trees based on slope, aspect, and landscape.
Work with cooperative adjacent landowners to test out new ideas or practices.
Plantations
8.2. Favor existing genotypes that are better adapted to future conditions.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
9.4. Protect future-adapted seedlings and saplings.
Thin stands to improve vigor and reduce risks from drought.
Establish desired plantation species in the near-term (next 2 decades).
Where plantation species are replanted, use local stock (heritage) and/or use stock from heat- and drought-adapted populations (e.g., from southern Europe).
Continue to ensure planted trees are not lost due to herbivory.

Monitoring

Managers identified forest inventory data as an integral component of monitoring the effectiveness of adaptation actions over time. Permanent forest inventory plots were established within each stand on the property. The inventory provides a useful baseline for prescribing management activities for adaptation. For example, data on tree species abundance can be used to calculate tree species richness and diversity evenness and provided an indication of the relative risk associated with the loss of different tree species. Additionally, the presence of advanced regeneration of tree species that may be better adapted to future conditions can be assessed in the inventory data. In the future, repeat inventories will be used to evaluate whether the selected management activities increase the abundance of desired species in the understory and eventually the overstory.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Two land managers, one of which is park staff, discuss forest management in the forest.

Project Documents

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria or learn more at: https://go.usa.gov/x5MZT

Keywords

Insect pests, Invasive species, Upland conifers, Upland hardwoods, Infrastructure, Management plan

Last Updated

Tuesday, May 9, 2017