The concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere continues to increase and is contributing to higher average temperatures and other effects on climate across the planet and in Oregon. Greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere from human activities that rely on the combustion of carbon-rich sources of fuel from geologic sources for transportation, industrial activity, agriculture, and power generation.
Oregon’s forest ecosystems will be significantly affected by the changes in climate predicted to occur if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced in the coming decades. The frequency, severity, and area burned by forest wildfires is expected to increase along with higher rates of tree mortality from droughts, insects, and disease. There is already evidence of altered geographic distributions of many plant species, longer fire seasons, and higher numbers of wildfires than in the past.
Forested ecosystems are a fundamental component of our planet’s carbon and water cycles. Huge amounts of carbon are stored in forests because trees pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and use it to grow trunks, branches, and leaves. In the process large amounts of oxygen and water vapor are released into the atmosphere—a fully grown tree in one day can release hundreds of liters of water. Wildfires, droughts, and other destructive forces can greatly diminish these functions that help maintain conditions on the planet we enjoy and depend on.
Oregon Department of Forestry has been committed to the preservation and sustainable management of forested ecosystems for over 100 years. The agency considers climate change a major threat to those goals and has been actively collaborating with agency partners in research and the development of effective policies to help mitigate and adapt to the changes predicted to occur.