The Impact of Climate Change on California Timberlands

TitleThe Impact of Climate Change on California Timberlands
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsHannah, L, Costello, C, Guo, C, Ries, L, Kolstad, C, Snider, N
Date Published2009
InstitutionConservation International and University of California Santa Barbara
ISBN NumberCEC-500-2009-045-F
KeywordsCalifornia, carbon credit, climate change, growth rate, timber

California timber production has been declining in an era of warming, increased wildfires, land use change, and growing emphasis on recreation. Climate change has the potential to further affect the California timber production and prices. The direction and magnitude of change will depend on individual site characteristics and projected climate change. Examples of potential climate change effects include changes in individual tree growth rates, forest dieback, and shifts in species ranges and ecosystem composition. When coupled with changes in global timber prices, which themselves are the result of productivity changes, this leads to important consequences to California's private timberlands. The ecological responses to climate change are dynamic and these complexities should be considered when predicting future timber production in California. Past attempts have modeled climate change impacts on the timber industry in California but did not consider dynamic land-use change or biologically relevant spatial resolution. This study uses models that project tree species productivity and movement across the landscape under climate change, coupled with economic models of landowner adaptation and returns from multiple harvest strategies. Our results show that under likely price scenarios, climate change will result in an overall decline in the value of harvested timber in the state, with decreases of 4.9 percent to 8.5 percent by the end of the century, depending on climate change scenario, price scenario and management option, with dollar losses totaling up to $8.1 billion. There is great spatial variation within these statewide averages. Many areas of the state show substantial declines in timber value, while a smaller number of areas show modest increases in value, under price scenarios that reflect the impact of climate change. If prices are not affected by climate change, more areas experience gains in value. Management options influence the degree of loss, indicating that programs fostering adaptation to climate change may pay important economic benefits. Declining timber value corresponds disproportionately to areas already experiencing conversion of timberlands to housing or agriculture. Policy measures to stem conversion of timberlands due to climate change may warrant consideration.