Four Douglas fir trees surround my house in Medford. To one, I am especially grateful, since it sits to the south and helps shade my house during the hottest part of the day. It's also straight out the kitchen window. The chickadees and nuthatches who explore its trunk sometimes provide amusement while I'm doing those pesky dishes.
My house in Puget Sound also is reposed under these upright giants. Up there, these trees reach their full height, 200 feet or more. Here, at the edge of their range in Southern Oregon, they don't get that tall. But, with climate change, future generations might not see them growing here at all. According to predictions of climate scientists, the Rogue Valley will be facing much hotter summers in the coming decades. The increase doesn't threaten life for those of us with access to air conditioning or water. For plant life outside the reach of our irrigation hoses, the forecast anticipates profound change in the ecosystem.
My information comes from a regional report I received as a participant in "Shifting Patterns," a collaboration of artists and climate scientists sponsored by Medford's Jefferson Nature Center. "Preparing for Climate Change in the Rogue River Basin" is serious reading, and it is hoped that artists will translate it into evocative and inspirational imagery (You can read the entire report via PDF on the University of Oregon Web site: www.uoregon.edu/~climlead/pdfs/ROGUE%20WS_FINAL.pdf).
According to these predictions, over the next 75 years summers in the Rogue River basin will warm by about seven degrees and include longer dry seasons. Landscape change could happen in dramatic fashion, with invasive species, destructive insects and wildfires.
What should you do? Well, fuels reduction in your own woodland is a must — and you knew that. If you live in the forested regions, learn more about controlled burns. Many people are understandably resistant to this practice, but keep an open mind and listen to the reasons the Forest Service wants to use them.
If you have a stream on your property, protect the vegetation along its banks. Keeping your stream shaded will help keep water temperatures down and thus maintain habitat for salmon all the way downstream to the ocean. How's that for effective environmental action?
Even in the garden, change is called for. I don't recommend planting a Douglas fir today, but in the future, monitor the health of those planted in your area. These trees likely will require something new: summer water. The longer dry season predicted will accelerate their decline and careful watering at the shoulders of the dry season will help. In the region, we need to preserve forest corridors to help wildlife migrate and maintain old growth.
For new species of trees, we can look to Sacramento, since our new weather is predicted to resemble that of California's capital. According to Sacramento City Arborist Duane Goosen, having the specialty growers of Forest Farm Nursery in the Applegate gives valley residents an advantage. Their extensive plant list gives us access to many more varieties, he said.
The trees that will do well come from countries we've heard lots about: Iran, Iraq and Turkey. "For some reason they do even better here," he said.
For more about the future, view the work of "Shifting Patterns" artists at 7 p.m. June 20 at the Jefferson Nature Center in Medford's U.S. Cellular Community Park on Highway 99. I'll be reading my piece (yes, on Douglas fir). Visual artists Bruce Bayard, Jan Pinhero and Kandy Scott will be showing their work, with scientist Cindy Deacon Williams there to answer questions. Hope to see you there.
Althea Godfrey is gardening editor for HomeLife magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.