Assisted Migration

 

When taking a walk around the grounds at SHADOW’s office and Richter Education Center, it’s easy to forget that this wooded area used to be a garbage dump.  All the beautiful snowberry, Nootka Rose, and other shrubs and groundcover were planted by volunteers in the past 20 years. Even the amphibian pond was put in by human hands.  This process, called ecological restoration, is one of the main tools SHADOW uses to preserve and manage the acres it protects.   
 
Ecological restoration can take two different paths. One type, called historical restoration, has a goal of returning the land and the plants found there to a certain point in the past. The other type of ecological restoration has the goal to restore the function of the land.  
 
Like all other organizations caring for land, SHADOW is attempting to envision the future of the land we protect. What changes will climate change bring? How do we plant and restore forests that might be exposed to warmer, drier summers? How should we care for the land, like the bog, if climate change changes the plants that grow there? 
 
Early in 2018, SHADOW staff met with Washington Department of Natural Resources staff and learned more about SHADOW’s bog and its status as an imperiled ecosystem. Through this meeting, we have been selected as one site for the Department’s study of Washington’s Peatlands. The study is attempting to determine the historic conditions of bogs and understand more about how development and climate are impacting Washington’s peatlands.  

 
Other scientists, like Camille Parmesan, are willing to try controversial new tools, in order to respond to changes in climate. As spring comes earlier each year, 2.3 days per decade to be exact, and animals move farther north, 6km per decade, plants aren’t as able to adapt. Parmesan hopes that people will help plants move by planting trees farther north. This process, called Assisted Migration, is controversial but Parmesan thinks it is necessary, “If we do nothing, we are also risking biodiversity.” 
 
In the future, SHADOW will have to decide what paths it will take in preserving and restoring the ecosystems found here. Will we preserve the bog in its historical state or allow it to transition into a wetland forest? Are we willing to take risks in order to continue to protect critical wildlife habitat?