Helping Tug Hill Plateau Forest Cope With Climate Change

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by Ellen Abbott
SYRACUSE (WRVO) – The Nature Conservancy is hoping to create a climate resilient forest on the Tug Hill Plateau. The Tug Hill Plateau is the third-largest forest landscape in the New York state — a critical link between the Adirondacks and the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains. Its headwaters pour clean water into Lake Ontario, and the area is home to a variety of wildlife, ranging from black bears to forest birds.

But selective cutting has weakened some parts of the forest, according to Nature Conservancy Central And Western New York director Jim Howe. And he says, add to that climate change, and these forests are very vulnerable.

“That region is supposed to warm by 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. That’s a lot. And in a region that depends on snow pack like Tug Hill, that’s going to change the forest,” said Howe.

To help it adapt, the Nature Conservancy will use a grant to experiment with ways it hopes to create a strong and diverse forest. That includes things like thinning, understory removal and girdling trees. This active management also includes plans to plant 45,000 new trees on conservancy land.

The end game says Howe, is to try to figure out ways to nudge nature to deal with climate change a little more quickly. Researchers with SUNY ESF will try to figure out ways to help the forest adapt.

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