Central and Southern Appalachian Workshop
on Climate Variability and Change

Supported by the United States Forest Service and West Virginia University

The Central and Southern Appalachian Workshop on the Impact of Climate Variability and Change will be held from May 26-29, 1998 at West Virginia University. The goal of this workshop is to assess the social and ecological importance of current climate variability and the potential for future climate change. To achieve this goal, we will initiate a dialogue among 100-120 invited stakeholders that represent eight broadly-defined sectors: energy, agriculture, human health, commerce, water resources, air quality, human communities, and forestry as viewed from both a wood products and ecosystem perspective. The dialogue will focus on four key questions:

From the diversity of viewpoints expressed by keynote speakers and during breakout sessions, we hope to build a consensus on the most critical challenges and the most promising opportunities faced by this region. We anticipate that the viewpoints expressed and the consensus that develops will be summarized in documents that will assist decision makers and ensure that the unique aspects of this region are represented in the formulation of any national policies. The results of the workshop should also serve as a foundation for future planning and activities at the regional level.

There are many unique economic, social, and ecological aspects of the central and southern Appalachian region that are derived, in large part, from the mountains that form it. Economically, the region has been disadvantaged and somewhat isolated by the ruggedness of the terrain and a poorly developed transportation infrastructure. In general, the economy is resource based and strongly dependent on the coal, gas, timber, and a growing tourism/recreation industry.

Socially, the relative isolation of the mountainous terrain has allowed unique mountain cultures, handicrafts, and traditions to be developed and preserved. Finally, the mountains in this region are important ecologically. The central and southern Appalachians form the headwaters of many important rivers in the eastern United States, and are home to a great diversity of plant and animal species.

The region already experiences many stresses that are influenced by climate variability and change. The high elevations, steep valleys, and close proximity to major urban areas makes this region susceptible to the effects of various forms of air pollution. Changes in precipitation can also cause severe erosion and catastrophic flooding. Finally, climate variability and national policies that attempt to mitigate the effects of future climate change will undoubtedly affect the resource-based economy of this region.

We hope the dialogue initiated at this workshop will stimulate creative thinking and partnerships that will assist in the formulation of regional and national strategies for meeting the challenges of living in a changing environment.

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