Retaining and enhancing the health of forests that drain into streams in the Chagrin River and lower Grand River watersheds is the goal of the Chagrin River Watershed Partners.
The group is planning to use a $181,152 award from the Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund to help species, ecosystems and human communities adapt to climate change.
The watershed partners are matching the grant with $184,123 in cash and in-kind services to maintain, protect and enhance forests and streams, said Alicia Beattie, project manager at the Chagrin River Watershed Partners.
“We’re very excited about the project,” Ms. Beattie said, explaining that the funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation was a national competition.
Healthy forests and streams benefit people living in the region, she said. “This is actively working to manage our forests and enhance forest health,” she said of the use of the funding.
Forests in Northeast Ohio provide many values including scenic beauty, recreation, stormwater management and flood control, as well as cleaner air and water, according to the watershed partners.
Climate change may alter the forest ecosystem and even intensify other stressors including deer browse, pests, pathogens and invasive species. Those stressors are expected to grow and change forests.
Changes in precipitation and temperature are expected to stress some northern tree species including American beech, sugar maple and eastern hemlocks.
“This is a comprehensive plan to protect the salamanders and birds and the forest quality,” Ms. Beattie said.
Project partners will be doing management of 500 acres of forests on Holden Arboretum and park district properties surrounding hemlock ravines with cold-water streams, she said.
The streams have groundwater connections and flow through areas with shaded, north-facing slopes and sheltered ravines that serve as refuge for wildlife, according to the watershed partners.
The streams are also surrounded by tracts of protected forests, which buffer against development which brings heated stormwater and pollutants.
Project partners are working on the exact sites in the Chagrin River watershed and the lower Grand River where they will concentrate their efforts to enhance the forest health, Ms. Beattie said. Those areas will include the North and South Chagrin Reservations in the Cleveland Metroparks.
There are more miles of cold-water streams in this area than anywhere else in the state. Cold-water streams support specific species that need cold water such as the mayflies and stoneflies, she explained.
“Certain invertebrates are important indicators of water quality and important food for fish and birds,” she said. The effort strives to enhance the diversity of the forests and maintain habitat for Ohio brook trout, the redside dace and salamanders as well as birds including the dark-eyed junco which lives in ravines, Ms. Beattie said.
The Cleveland Metroparks will be looking at areas in South Chagrin Reservation that drain to places such as Sulphur Springs and the area of Hawthorn Parkway in Solon. They will also be in the lower Grand River looking at acreage around the Stoneybrook Falls at Penitentiary Glen.
A group of forestry advisers will be visiting the sites and providing recommendation that will include addressing invasive species, understory plantings and what trees would do well in the areas, Ms. Beattie said.
“We targeted the cold-water streams because they are really important to wildlife,” she said. Cold- water streams have good ground water connections. They are surrounded by protected forests that help prevent heated water from coming from developments.
Geauga Park District biologist Paul Pira is working with the partners, Ms. Beattie said. There are cold-water streams in Geauga County and in the park district including in the Bass Lake area. Brook trout are a part of those cold-water streams.
They will be looking at regeneration of areas. Deer like to browse on trees, so they might install fences around some trees. The partners will consider the age of the trees and ways of controlling invasive species as they seek to enhance the forests. “We will bring in experts for technical advice,” she said.
The park district and Holden Arboretum will be working together and Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District has extensive experience with stream evaluation and assessing health of headwater streams, Ms. Beattie said.
The question is how forests can be managed with climate change and other stressors to promote and help them regenerate, provide good diversity, provide habitat for wildlife and be more resistant to changes in temperature, Ms. Beattie said.
They will convene this spring with advisory committees going to partner sites and sharing ideas during workshops. The results of the studies will be shared and landowners will be taught to do forest assessments on their own properties, she added.
Results also are important to those who hike, fish and love the natural areas, Ms. Beattie said.
Project partners and local funders include Holden Forests and Gardens, Cleveland Metroparks, Lake Metroparks, Geauga Park District, Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, Lake County Stormwater Management Department, Western Reserve Land Conservancy Dominion watershed mini-grant program, Gates Mills village, Moreland Hills village, Think Media Studios, Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity, Cleveland Museum of Natural History Trout Club and Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders.
“It’s very exciting to work with a lot of partners on this,” Ms. Beattie said of the two-year project. “It’s a complex project, and it is science based.”