Climate Change Adaptation Demonstration: Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Twentymile Creek and Marengo River Watersheds

An adaptation demonstration project was undertaken by the US Forest Service’s Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIAC), the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), and the Shared Landscapes Initiative, which included several watershed restoration activities underway in northern Wisconsin. The applied adaptation and restoration measures are being evaluated for their ability to increase watershed resilience to changing conditions due to climate.

Twentymile Creek and the headwaters of the Marengo River provide clean water to Lake Superior and both are considered by CNNF to be the highest priority watersheds for restoration. Natural resource professionals from CNNF used NIAC’s Adaptation Workbook to evaluate potential climate change impacts to the two watersheds and suggest actions to enhance forest resilience under a wide range of future conditions. A few specific restoration actions planned at each location along with the adaptation benefits associated with each action are featured:

Twentymile Creek

  • Poorly placed and deteriorated culverts will be replaced with larger, better aligned culverts to improve stream connectivity and withstand greater stream flows that may occur more frequently in the future.
  • Planned harvest aimed at diversifying riparian areas in order to improve resilience of such areas to climate change stressors.
  • Plant pine seedlings, which are expected to be better-adapted to climate change than other native species, to shade and cool streams year-round.

Headwaters of the Marengo River

  • Stabilize eroding banks to reduce impacts, such as erosion and sedimentation during severe rain or snowmelt events, on water quality.
  • Planned harvest to reduce aspen and increase the abundance and diversity of tree species expected to be more suitable to future conditions. These activities may indirectly help maintain cold water habitat for native brook trout through reducing the suitability of these areas to beaver.

Future steps include carrying out the planned restoration activities, monitoring them for their effectiveness as adaptation actions, incorporating professional feedback for improvements, and communicating outcomes and lessons from the project to stakeholders.

NIAC’s Climate Change Response Framework was utilized to support the implementation of this demonstration project. The Framework is a collaborative approach to incorporate climate change considerations into natural resource management, communicates outcomes and updates to the public on this and other demonstration projects across the Northeast and Midwest U.S.


Publication Date: 2012 - 2017

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