Large portions of the Blue Mountains including the Wallowa and the Elkhorn Mountains have maximum land surface temperatures similar to that of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains and Coastal Ranges. While this might seem surprising, with the exception of deciduous broadleaf forests that shed their leaves to avoid drought stress, all forests ecosystems converge to a similar upper temperature limit of about 100 F. The reason for this has to due with the characteristics that forest ecosystems share such as deep roots to access groundwater, and deep complex canopies that are efficient at shedding heat through interactions with the atmosphere.
Despite the numerous benefits that forests provide to society such as regulating the most extreme maximum temperatures that we experience all year, much of our current forest policies, such as the US National Fire Plan, focus almost exclusively on fuels. Its time we move beyond this overly simplistic approach and explicitly consider the numerous valuable ecosystem services we derive from forests in our overarching policies to managing these incredible ecosystems.
The BAMS study may be accessed here: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/2011BAMS3067.1
Post by David Mildrexler, Ecosystem Conservation Coordinator, Hells Canyon Preservation Council and lead author of the study.