• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation

An effort to intentionally integrate climate change considerations into management planning and activities for DNR-owned properties in the ‘Scuppernong Basin,’ a geological feature associated with ancient Glacial Lake Scuppernong. 

Identifying potential climate vulnerabilities and adaptation actions to address key climate vulnerabilities while meeting conservation goals and objectives may assist DNR property managers as they consider how to address climate change in their day-to-day management, as well as in longer-term state forest master planning processes.

Project Area

Map of scuppernong basin
The "Scuppernong Marsh" historically supported a matrix (tens of thousands of acres) of fire-dependent ecosystems, including wetlands, grasslands, savannas and woodlands. Many of these ecosystems remain in the project area with varying degrees of ecological integrity; the most intact remnants are protected in two State Natural Areas. The project area refers to DNR-owned properties generally referred to in this case study as part of the “Scuppernong Basin”.

Breakdown of broad cover types on DNR-owned lands in Scuppernong Basin: wetlands (66%), grasslands (36%), savannas and forests (13%), shrub-dominated (6%), farmland (5%) and conifer plantation (1%). Wetlands are predominant landcover feature within the larger 'Scuppernong Basin,' composing approx. 50% of total area. Wetlands include emergent marsh, sedge meadow, calcareous fen, wet-mesic prairie, shrub-carr and bottomland hardwoods. Grasslands include dry-mesic prairie, wet-mesic prairie, prairie plantings, and non-native cool-season grass plantings. Savannas include oak opening and oak woodland. Forested areas include oak-dominated uplands, aspen stands, bottomland hardwoods, central hardwoods, and conifer plantations. Rare species include 1 federally endangered sp, 1 federally threatened sp, 8 state endangered spp, 10 state threatened spp, and 14 state Special Concern spp. Grasslands and open wetlands support rare/declining grassland birds. Prairies support rare invertebrates. Rare herptiles in wetlands, rare fish historically known from Scuppernong River, rare mussel in Upper Spring Lake. 16 rare plant spp in various habitats.

Surrounding lands are primarily farmland and emergent marsh, with scattered woodlots. Paved roads run along and through project area. Attempts to convert wetlands to farmland in the past is evident with numerous ditches throughout property. Cattle grazing occurred to varying extents across uplands and wetlands.

Management Goals

Site-wide goals and objectives for this project:

  • Goal 1: Restore and maintain resilient natural communities; Objective 1.1: Increase the size of natural communities where appropriate and possible, and re-establish appropriate disturbance regimes (hydrology and fire).
  • Goal 2: Control invasive species; Objective 2.1: Halt expansion of invasive species populations. Early detection & control of new invaders and outlier populations.
  • Goal 3: Conserve/maintain/expand habitat critical for rare species; Objective 3.1: Manage vegetation to promote high-quality suitable habitat. Integrate habitat management to ensure NHI concerns are mitigated.
  • Goal 4: Maintain a low fire return interval across the site; Objective 4.1: Prioritize prescribed burns in the basin. 1- to 3-year fire-return-interval.
  • Goal 5: Allow opportunities for low-impact recreation activities (hiking, hunting, fishing); Objective 5.1: Maintain existing trail systems - periodically review & identify potential ecological conflicts.

Additional goals and objectives were curated for a focused set of broad natural community topics, sorted by themes “wetlands”, “grasslands and savannas”, and “forests”. Narrative summaries are linked in the following sections.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the team evaluated climate change projections for the Scuppernong Basin, drawing from best available science and reports such as the WICCI Plants and Natural Community Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments for each theme (wetlands, grasslands, forests). From a basin-wide perspective the most important anticipated climate change impacts across the Scuppernong Basin (sorted by greatest perceived risk):

  • Increased woody species (Tree and Brush) invasion on sites, along with more invasive species on sites
  • Changes in fire regime
  • Altered water budgets/hydrology
  • Extreme precipitation and flooding
  • Changes in habitat suitability for vegetation
  • Water deficits, drought
  • Increased temps
  • Tree pests and diseases

Specific climate vulnerability considerations for each natural resources topic area under consideration at this workshop can be found in the narratives linked below:

  • Wetlands (link to uploaded narrative)
  • Grasslands and Savannas (link to uploaded narrative)
  • Forests (link to uploaded narrative)

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

*Prescribed burning will become even more of a challenge. Wetter spring seasons may impact the ability to conduct burns, shifting the burn window, and leaving managers unsure if scheduling and capacity can match optimal burn window opportunities.

*Altered winter conditions (less frozen ground time) can challenge forestry operations and maintenance (harvests, mowing).

*Altered groundwater levels and the effects on basin hydrology and wetlands, particularly Calcareous Fens, uncertainty surrounding groundwater levels, coupled with possible changes in irrigation practices on neighboring agricultural lands are a concern.

*Increased growing season length, and warmer temps that may favor invasive species, may increase competition with native species, and reduce diversity on sites that may result in future extirpation of native species in localized areas.

*Increased heavy brush growth and dominance may reduce access to areas (esp. between uplands and wetlands), and brush growth may be enhanced by CO2 increases over time.

*Tree species projected to have more suitable habitats may impact the regeneration of preferred species.

*Increased runoff and nutrients from neighboring lands (agricultural lands, roadways) may alter the quality of wetlands.

Adaptation Actions

The Scuppernong Basin is a large landscape with a diversity of landforms, taxa, natural communities, and land uses. Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook and menus of adaptation strategies to develop adaptation actions for each natural resource topic under consideration at this workshop: wetlands, grasslands and savannas, and forests. Several adaptation strategies and approaches were selected to support adaptation actions designed by the group, and are detailed in the following narratives:

This workshop is one of many that specifically focuses on wetland ecosystem climate adaptation. Find related resources, and additional adaptation demonstration projects featured on the Wetlands focus page


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management across the basin and also more specifically for each topic area. Find customized monitoring items for each topic area linked in the previous section.

Project Videos

Other Related Links


Forest threats

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