Plant Vulnerabilities

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The most rapidly visible and significant short-term effects on forest ecosystems and farming will be caused by altered disturbance regimes, often occurring with increased frequency and severity. Interacting disturbances will have the biggest effects on ecosystem responses, simultaneously altering species composition, structure, and function. The type and magnitude of disturbances will differ regionally and will pose significant challenges for resource managers to mitigate and reduce damage to resource values:

• Wildfire will increase throughout the United States, causing at least a doubling of area burned by the mid-21st century.

• Extreme heat and droughts are causing spikes in insect infestations, such as the current advance of bark beetles in forests throughout the Western United States and Canada, will expand, often affecting more land area per year than wildfire.

• Invasive species will likely become more widespread, especially in areas subject to increased disturbance and in dry forest ecosystems.

• Increased flooding, erosion, and movement of sediment into streams will be caused by (1) higher precipitation intensity in some regions (e.g., Southern United States), (2) higher rain:snow ratios in mountainous regions (western mountains), and (3) higher area burned (western dry forests). These increases will be highly variable in space and time, affecting decisions about management of roads and other infrastructure, as well as access for users of forest land.

• Increased drought will exacerbate stress complexes that include insects, fire, and invasive species, leading to higher tree mortality, slow regeneration in some species, and altered species assemblages.

As dire as this sounds, there are methods to strengthen our eco systems and farm lands. For instance during times of droughts farmers can whitewash paint the trunks of their fruit and nut trees. This will protect them from sun burn as well as weevil infestation.

Companion planting beyond the three sisters (beens, corn and pumpkin) is another form of crop protection. For instance growing plants like carrots and spinach around orange/lemon trees will prevent citrus greening. Planting cucumbers on the edge of water trenches during droughts will prevent heat stress. In India, when farmers anticipate a longer than normal dry season, they plant their crops closer together, even more so than normal. This forces the crops to mature and harvest 6 weeks earlier thereby saving them from drying up.

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