Adaption Strategies and Approaches (E3223)

Foresters and forest owners will respond to climate change in different ways, based on their judgment of the associated risks and opportunities. A range of adaptation actions can be taken, which can be selected based on management objectives.

Adaption Strategies and Approaches

The Earth’s climate is changing. Many trends have been tracked, some reaching back tens of thousands of years. Trees and forests are sensitive to a range of environmental conditions, including the climate. In addition to climate, there are other factors to which forests respond, such as human activities and management, biological relationships, and invasive pests. All of this creates a dynamic within which forests grow and change.

While there is no doubt among the scientific community that the climate is changing, the ecological response of Michigan’s forests is more uncertain (see other bulletins in this series).

Foresters and forest owners will naturally have different perspectives on how to judge climate change risks and opportunities.

They will also have different institutional constraints when it comes to taking action. Even so, it is prudent for foresters to consider what they can do in order to help forests adapt to climate change. In many cases, preparing for climate change offers “win-win” opportunities because many adaptation actions are already fundamental practices of good forestry. Also, many adaptation actions can address forest stressors that foresters are already used to considering, such as drought and forest pests.

Swanston & Janowiak (2012) articulate a series of forest management strategies and approaches in light of a changing climate. These planning categories are intended to be couched within a framework of adaptation choices and followed-up by a series of site-specific tactics, or management practices. The following set of strategies and approaches can generate ideas and drive the selection of on-the-ground practices. This list is proposed as a “menu” of possible actions – the idea is to pick and choose the approaches that are most suitable to a particular management goal and forest type. Not all items on the menu will work together, although they can be applied in various combinations across a landscape or project area. Also, foresters may generate additional ideas that can be added to the menu.

To better understand how each of the approaches might be relevant to risks associated with climate change, review the “Vulnerability Assessments” that have been prepared for Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula / Eastern Upper Peninsula (Handler et al. 2014) or Northern Wisconsin / Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Janowiak et al. 2014). For example, measures to protect against severe weather become even more important when the frequency and severity of these events are expected to increase.

Swanston & Janowiak (2012) also provide a workbook process to help foresters and landowners consider climate change. This workbook process starts with identifying management objectives, and includes separate steps for considering climate change risks and opportunities and selecting adaptation actions from the menu that will help achieve management objectives.

Implementing drastic adaptation actions, such as long distance assisted migration, may be warranted only in limited situations. However, managing forests to increase basic ecological strengths (such as forest resilience, species diversity, and tree vigor) is good forestry under any circumstances. Monitoring forest conditions over the long-term will be essential to adapting management to meet future challenges, not only from climate change, but also the wide array of socioeconomic-cultural trends that are currently underway (e.g. parcelization, exotic pests, loss of forest industry, emerging technologies, etc.).

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