Public lands and waters in the United States traditionally have been managed using frameworks and objectives that were established under an implicit assumption of stable climatic conditions. However, projected climatic changes render this assumption invalid. Here, we summarize general principles for management adaptations that have emerged from a major literature review. These general principles cover many topics including: (1) how to assess climate impacts to ecosystem processes that are key to management goals; (2) using management practices to support ecosystem resilience; (3) converting barriers that may inhibit management responses into opportunities for successful implementation; and (4) promoting flexible decision making that takes into account challenges of scale and thresholds. To date, the literature on management adaptations to climate change has mostly focused on strategies for bolstering the resilience of ecosystems to persist in their current states. Yet in the longer term, it is anticipated that climate change will push certain ecosystems and species beyond their capacity to recover. When managing to support resilience becomes infeasible, adaptation may require more than simply changing management practices—it may require changing management goals and managing transitions to new ecosystem states. After transitions have occurred, management will again support resilience—this time for a new ecosystem state. Thus, successful management of natural resources in the context of climate change will require recognition on the part of managers and decisions makers of the need to cycle between “managing for resilience” and “managing for change.”
Climate change is altering ecological systems throughout the world. Managing these systems in a way that ignores climate change will likely fail to meet management objectives. The uncertainty in projected climatechange impacts is one of the greatest challenges facing managers attempting to address global change. In order to select successful management strategies, managers need to understand the uncertainty inherent in projected climate impacts and how these uncertainties affect the outcomes of management activities. Perhaps the most important tool for managing ecological systems in the face of climate change is active adaptive management, in which systems are closely monitored and management strategies are altered to address expected and ongoing changes. Here, we discuss the uncertainty inherent in different types of data on potential climate impacts and explore climate projections and potential management responses at three sites in North America. The Central Valley of California, the headwaters of the Klamath River in Oregon, and the barrier islands and sounds of North Carolina each face a different set of challenges with respect to climate change. Using these three sites, we provide specific examples of how managers are already beginning to address the threat of climate change in the face of varying levels of uncertainty.
The forests of northern Wisconsin, a defining feature of the region’s landscape, are expected to undergo numerous changes in response to the changing climate. This document provides a collection of resources designed to help forest managers incorporate climate change considerations into management and devise adaptation tactics. It was developed in northern Wisconsin as part of the Northwoods Climate Change Response Framework project and contains information from assessments, partnership efforts, workshops, and collaborative work between scientists and managers. The four interrelated chapters include: (1) a description of the overarching Climate Change Response Framework, a landscape-scale conservation approach also being expanded to other landscapes; (2) a “menu” of adaptation strategies and approaches that are directly relevant to forests in northern Wisconsin; (3) a workbook process to help incorporate climate change considerations into forest management planning and to assist land managers in developing groundlevel climate adaptation tactics for forest ecosystems; and (4) two illustrations that provide examples of how these resources can be used in real-world situations. The ideas, tools, and resources presented in the different chapters are intended to inform and support the existing decisionmaking processes of multiple organizations with diverse management goals.
The forests of northern Wisconsin will likely experience dramatic changes over the next 100 years as a result of climate change. This assessment evaluates key forest ecosystem vulnerabilities to climate change across northern Wisconsin under a range of future climate scenarios with a focus on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. We describe the contemporary landscape and major existing climate trends using state climatological data, as well as potential future climate trends for this region using downscaled global data from general circulation models. We identify potential vulnerabilities by incorporating these future climate projections into species distribution and ecosystem process models and assessing potential changes to northern Wisconsin forests. Warmer temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are expected to infl uence ecosystem drivers and increase stressors, including more frequent disturbances and increased amount or severity of pests and diseases. Forest ecosystems will continue to adapt to changing conditions. Even under conservative climate change scenarios, suitable habitat for many tree species is expected to move northward. Many species, including balsam fi r, white spruce, paper birch, and quaking aspen, are projected to decline as their suitable habitat decreases in quality and extent. Certain species, communities, and ecosystems may not be particularly resilient to the increases in stress or changes in habitat, and they may be subject to severe declines in abundance or may be lost entirely from the landscape. These include fragmented and static ecosystems, as well as ecosystems containing rare species or species already in decline. Identifying vulnerable species and forests can help landowners, managers, regulators, and policymakers establish priorities for management and monitoring.
We offer a conceptual framework for managing forested ecosystems under an assumption that future environments will be different from present but that we cannot be certain about the specifics of change. We encourage flexible approaches that promote reversible and incremental steps, and that favor ongoing learning and capacity to modify direction as situations change. We suggest that no single solution fits all future challenges, especially in the context of changing climates, and that the best strategy is to mix different approaches for different situations. Resources managers will be challenged to integrate adaptation strategies (actions that help ecosystems accommodate changes adaptively) and mitigation strategies (actions that enable ecosystems to reduce anthropogenic influences on global climate) into overall plans. Adaptive strategies include resistance options (forestall impacts and protect highly valued resources), resilience options (improve the capacity of ecosystems to return to desired conditions after disturbance), and response options (facilitate transition of ecosystems from current to new conditions). Mitigation strategies include options to sequester carbon and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Priority-setting approaches (e.g., triage), appropriate for rapidly changing conditions and for situations where needs are greater than available capacity to respond, will become increasingly important in the future.
In this report, we lay out a framework for understanding potential impacts of climate change on forestry. This framework draws on a review of recommended actions from forest managers and scientists throughout Canada, the US, and Europe. We then present a toolbox of practices that forest managers in the northeastern US might apply to reduce exposure to the immediate and long-term risk from climate change.
Recent rapid changes in the Earth’s climate have altered ecological systems around the globe. Global warming has been linked to changes in physiology, phenology, species distributions, interspecific interactions, and disturbance regimes. Projected future climate change will undoubtedly result in even more dramatic shifts in the states of many ecosystems. These shifts will provide one of the largest challenges to natural resource managers and conservation planners. Managing natural resources and ecosystems in the face of uncertain climate requires new approaches. Here, the many adaptation strategies that have been proposed for managing natural systems in a changing climate are reviewed. Most of the recommended approaches are general principles and many are tools that managers are already using. What is new is a turning toward a more agile management perspective. To address climate change, managers will need to act over different spatial and temporal scales. The focus of restoration will need to shift from historic species assemblages to potential future ecosystem services. Active adaptive management based on potential future climate impact scenarios will need to be a part of everyday operations. And triage will likely become a critical option. Although many concepts and tools for addressing climate change have been proposed, key pieces of information are still missing. To successfully manage for climate change, a better understanding will be needed of which species and systems will likely be most affected by climate change, how to preserve and enhance the evolutionary capacity of species, how to implement effective adaptive management in new systems, and perhaps most importantly, in which situations and systems will the general adaptation strategies that have been proposed work and how can they be effectively applied.
The forests of the Northeast U.S. will be significantly affected by climate change, but they also play a role in mitigating climate change by sequestering CO2. Forest management decisions can increase forests’ resilience and ability to adapt to altered precipitation and temperature patterns. At the same time, management strategies that increase carbon storage will help reduce climate disruptions. Because of climate change, foresters on managed lands should take into account changes in species composition, more frequent disturbances, potential changes in growth rates, and distorted insect and disease dynamics. Silvicultural prescriptions should emphasize low impact logging techniques, the perpetuation of structural complexity, legacy trees, extended rotations, and uneven aged management systems where appropriate. In order to maintain resilience as well as to store carbon, forests should be protected from land use conversion.