Energy, climate change, ecosystem services, and how society values these services - such as clean drinking water, outdoor recreation, and biological conservation - are key issues influencing the Appalachian landscape. These issues and drivers of change are essential to understand and plan for in the management and protection of both natural and cultural resources in order to create a more sustainable landscape for wildlife and human communities.
The Appalachians have and still are a hotspot for America's energy needs. Forests provided early settlers with a ready supply of wood fuel. As the nation industrialized, the region became the center for coal, oil, and recently natural gas extraction and wind. Though essential for society, the extraction of these resources has altered the Appalachian landscape, impacting biodiversity and natural places that make the Appalachians unique. As wind, natural gas, and oil development expand along with traditional coal, there is an increasing need for research to inform discussions on how to meet immediate and future energy needs while sustaining the health of natural systems.
Understanding the complete and diverse benefits society receives from nature as well as risks to their sustainability will allow managers, industry, and the public to adopt policies that encourage protection and investments in these resources. To meet this need, the Appalachian LCC is collaborating with the Forest Service on cutting edge research that fully integrates society’s value of ecosystems with future threats to better inform natural resource planning and management across the Appalachian landscape. This unique work provides a comprehensive resource to partners at a regional level, serving as a model for the LCC Network to deliver ecosystem services conservation science.
The Appalachian LCC Human Dimensions Portal is currently under development. Once fully launched, this section will provide resources and tools on cultural, heritage, and socio-economic aspects of human dimensions within the Appalachians. It will also detail how the Appalachian LCC is working to integrate both natural and cultural resources into conservation planning to inform management actions and decisions in the region.