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June 4, 2019

Woodlands in a World Impacted by Climate Change

By Meg Kerr, Senior Director of Policy

It’s going to be tough. Limiting global warming below the 2 degrees Centigrade threshold set by the Paris Climate Agreement is a daunting challenge. It will require both rapid decarbonization of our energy, transportation and building sectors and enhanced grasslands and forests to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Maintaining woodlands in rural areas of the state and promoting tree planting in suburban and urban neighborhoods is part of the solution.

Rhode Island is known for beautiful beaches and Narragansett Bay. But the smallest state -- the second most densely populated in the nation -- also supports vibrant woodland habitats, home to birds, mammals, reptiles and a wide diversity of insects and invertebrates. Woodlands and wetlands filter and clean water and absorb rainfall to reduce flooding, which protects the state’s critical drinking water supplies. They also reduce soil erosion, clean the air, cool the environment and provide wonderful opportunities for outdoor hiking and exploration.

Rhode Island has approximately 370,000 forested acres which cover 55.6 percent of the land area of the State. About a third of these forested acres are owned by the state, conservation organizations like Audubon, and land trusts. The remaining two-thirds of Rhode Island’s woodlands are privately owned.

Wildlife doesn’t care who owns the land, but they do need connected habitats that allow them to move freely from place to place. Mobility is key to survival for many wildlife species. Roads, homes and other developments reduce habitat areas and can limit the ability of animals and birds to move. Habitat connectivity also makes landscapes more resilient to disturbances by allowing species to recolonize after natural events like fires or development. Connectivity also makes woodland areas more resilient to climate change.

Climate change is altering woodland habitats. We are already seeing higher air and water temperatures and more extreme rain events and droughts that affect river and stream flows. These changes will increase over time. Connected woodland habitats will make it possible for Rhode Island’s wildlife to adapt and thrive. Forests need protection.

Latest News and Events

It’s not a stretch to say we’ve all been a little on-edge lately, but some time spent outside in nature can be a simple bit of first-aid during these difficult times.

Now more than ever, the outdoors continue to provide countless physical, mental and emotional health benefits for our community. And while our buildings and programs have temporarily shut down, our our 13 public wildlife refuges are there for you to explore. Read more.

To ensure the safety and health of our community, we have cancelled all programming until further notice, including the Wednesday Morning Birds Walks. Audubon is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation and we are ready to revise our response and protocols as needed. Stay updated here: https://asri.org/covid19/updates.html

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