|Tribal members harvest an abundance of forest plants for medicinal, nutritional and cultural purposes. Important species include, but are not limited to, devil’s club (s’axt’), fiddlehead ferns (k’wálx̲), fireweed (lóol), Hudson Bay tea (s’ikshaldéen), wild celery (yaana.eit), and many types of mushrooms. Hemlock (yán) is also used for harvesting herring eggs, carving and weaving. In 2016, Hoonah residents harvested nearly 32,000 pounds of wild plants, and 40 percent of households reported that they used less vegetation than they had in previous years. Harvesting plants is an important social opportunity for many tribal members and allows multiple generations to come together in search of a common goal. Many community members were concerned about the impacts of tourism or commercial harvest on forest plants, especially devil’s club. They were also worried about continued access to common harvesting sites and how access might change based on tourism growth.|
THE PLANTS OF THE TONGASS HAVE THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF EXPERIENCE ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE, WHICH IS A GOOD INDICATOR FOR THEIR CONTINUED WELL-BEING.
The understory of the Tongass is a very dynamic place, constantly being shaped by natural environmental changes as well as human alteration. Erosion, logging and construction are some of the largest threats to the Tongass in the near future. Many of the common plants in the forest though are highly adaptable to a wide range of conditions based on the ranges they currently inhabit and are predicted to be relatively resilient to future threats.
INSECTS, SUCH AS THE BLACKHEADED BUDWORM, ARE LIKELY TO BECOME A LARGER PROBLEM IN THE TONGASS.
While the worms are a natural part of the local ecosystem, populations are larger in warmer conditions. The insects feed on the new foliage in hemlock trees, and if enough of them are working together, they can kill off the tree. Combined with increased lightning strikes, human stupidity and periods of drought, they can help exacerbate forest fires, which have not traditionally been a part of the Southeast ecology. As a silver lining, when budworms bring down trees, it can help bring new light down to the understory, increasing the growth of berries and other forest vegetation.
INCREASED PRECIPITATION AND HIGHER TEMPERATURES WILL ENCOURAGE PLANT GROWTH .
Plants thrive in warm, humid environments and the Tongass of the future is predicted to be warmer and wetter than the Tongass of today. These changes will affect wild plants in the forest as well as those grown in gardens–the growing season is expected to be almost two months longer by the end of the century than it was in the 1990s and start significantly earlier in the year. While the overall amount of rain is expected to increase, it is also expected to become more variable and increased periods of drought will stress plants. The carbon density of soil in the Tongass is 36 times greater than the world average, meaning there are abundant opportunities for growth in the forest and for leveraging the carbon sink capacity for local protection efforts.
AN INCREASE IN LANDSLIDES AND DECREASE IN AVALANCHES WILL CHANGE THE GEOPHYSICAL FORCES AFFECTING THE FOREST AND AN INCREASE IN DEER MAY AFFECT GROWTH.
An increase in storms and landslides will increase the risk towards harvesters though, who may face dangers when going out the road to forage for wild vegetation. Deer populations are also predicted to increase due to global warming and the increased plant growth, but depending on the rate of increase, they may overgraze vulnerable young plants that are left exposed due to reduced snowpack.
1.1: Monitor species changes as conditions continue to change
1.2: Generate a usage guide that explains the various utilizations of forest plants
1.3: Continue to improve the community’s gardening capacity through the public garden, greenhouse construction, and educational opportunities to take advantage of the longer growing season.
2.1: Research how each species will be impacted by changing environmental conditions and other comparable species that can be utilized in the event that traditional species grow scarce.
2.2: Monitor commercial impacts on local harvesting sites
note to self: increased plant growth would stabilize land but also increased rain would soften it and lead to landslides – look into this relationship