Climate Change: Impacts on the places we love

Climate change is already affecting the places we love in Central Oregon and is expected to get worse.


Climate Change Impacts on the Places We Love

Most people live in Central Oregon because of the immense beauty of its natural places. Our mountains, forests, lakes, streams, and sagebrush steppe habitats are all being altered by climate change. These impacts have begun to affect ecosystems across our region, and the impacts of climate change on animals, plants, and habitats are all interconnected. Learn more about what's happening now and what we can expect to happen in the future to our loved places.

 

Skyline Forest. Photo: Jim 	Yuskavitch
Skyline Forest. Photo: Jim Yuskavitch
Forests

We have started to see an increase in large wildfires in Central Oregon, a trend that will continue into the future. In the near term, some forests in the East Cascades region may grow due to a longer growing season and increased precipitation as rain, which could also intensify wildfires in our area.

In addition, increased temperatures in Central Oregon may boost tree disease outbreaks and bark beetle invasions. Some models suggest that the range of bark-beetle-hosting ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees will increase, creating opportunities for large-scale infestations. In the long-term, this will likely lead to rapid, widespread death of ponderosa pines.

Learn about what the Deschutes Land Trust is doing to help forests in the face of climate change.

 

Mt. Jefferson from Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Tyler Roemer.
Mt. Jefferson from Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Tyler Roemer.
Snow and Mountains

Although it's incredibly difficult to predict precisely how climate change will impact precipitation, many models suggest that overall precipitation will increase in Oregon in the next hundred years or so. Due to rising temperatures, this precipitation will fall primarily as rain and will significantly reduce snowpack, particularly in the Cascades. In the transition to rain-dominant precipitation, rain-on-snow events will contribute to increased flooding and other streamflow alterations. By the 2080s, the entire Deschutes Basin will likely be rain-dominant.

Read more about this on our blog: Winter Isn't Coming. Then, learn about what the Deschutes Land Trust is doing to help reduce climate change's impact on snow and mountains.

 

Whychus Creek. Photo: Kris Kristovich.
Whychus Creek. Photo: Kris Kristovich.
Rain and Waterways

Since warmer air holds--and ultimately releases--more moisture than cooler air, increased rainfall is predicted in Central Oregon. In the Cascades, this will combine with warmer temperatures to create less snowfall, more rainfall, and more flooding. 

In rivers, more rain and less snow will contribute to earlier peak streamflow, will cause lower low flows, will decrease annual streamflow, and may lead to other changes in timing. It will also lead to a reduced amount of mountain groundwater recharge.

Warmer temperatures and decreased streamflow will contribute to higher stream temperatures, reducing habitat quality for fish.

Learn about what the Deschutes Land Trust is doing to help reduce climate change's impact on rain and waterways.

 

Sage at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Joan Amero.
Sage at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Joan Amero.
Sagebrush Steppe

It is likely that sagebrush steppe habitats will be reduced by climate change, which will allow plants like juniper to expand. Invasive species like cheatgrass and ventenata will also continue to spread throughout the areas currently occupied by sagebrush species. The combination of juniper and cheatgrass will provide ample material for intense fires and may cause the sagebrush steppe to convert entirely into grasslands.

In Central and Eastern Oregon, some of the wildlife expected to face population decline and loss of habitat include pronghorn, pgymy rabbit, western burrowing owl, mule deer, golden eagle, and greater sage grouse. 

Learn about what the Deschutes Land Trust is doing to help reduce climate change's impact on the sagebrush steppe.

 

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