Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change

Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) is a collaborative effort to establish a series of experimental silvicultural trials across a network of different forest ecosystem types throughout the United States. Scientists, land managers, and partners are developing trial sites as part of a multi-region study researching long-term ecosystem responses to a range of climate change adaptation actions.

The primary objectives of ASCC are to:

  • Create a multi-region study with locally-suited climate change adaptation treatments using input from an expert panel of regional scientists and local managers
  • Introduce natural resource managers to concepts, approaches, and tools that help integrate climate change considerations into resource management and silvicultural decision making.

ASCC study locations:

Study Design

Each trial serves as part of this multiregion study focused on understanding and evaluating management options designed to enable forests to respond to a changing climate. Site-specific treatments are developed according to local conditions and tailored to meet site management objectives, while aligned under a common framework for answering important questions about the responses of these forest types to climate change. In using this two-tiered design, ASCC provides tangible means of evaluating adaptive management strategies across distinct forest types, allowing researchers to ask broad questions about climate change adaptation across all study sites, while also addressing on-the-ground management application specific to individual sites. Adaptive planning processes guide treatment design and implementation, under three foundational climate change adaptation options, with a “no action” control.

To kick off each ASCC site, a multiday workshop is held to familiarize local managers and scientists with adaptation approaches and tactics for forest management. During the workshop, an expert panel of scientists and local managers also develops the specific treatments for the experiment, which includes designing resistance, resilience and transition objectives along a spectrum or gradient of climate change accommodation.

The framework of the ASCC project provides a straightforward system and a robust, replicated and long-term study design for testing climate change adaptation strategies in forest management. It also equips managers across the country with a practical approach to incorporating a suite of adaptation actions into silvicultural planning. Each ASCC treatment unit is of operational scale and represents significant harvest areas at each site, adding to the value and sustainability of the research. It also fosters collaboration through the long-term partnerships between researchers and managers at both the local and national levels. In this way, the ASCC project is responding to the need for operational, tangible examples of adaptive management that can foster resilience to climate change impacts and enable ecosystems to adapt under uncertain futures.

Specific ASCC treatments are designed to meet objectives for each adaptation option (resistance, resilience, and transition) based on input from regional experts:

 

Project Leads

The ASCC project is led by Linda Nagel of Colorado State University. Others involved in the intiation of the project include: Chris Swanston, Maria Janowiak, and Jim Guldin from the USDA Forest Service. Each regional ASCC installation also has its own local site leads.

 

Benefits & Impacts of the ASCC Project

The ASCC project provides managers and scientists with training on integrating climate change considerations into planning processes and identifying locally appropriate adaptation approaches and tactics for uncertain climate futures. The framework of ASCC provides a straightforward system and a robust, replicated, and long-term study design for testing climate change adaptation strategies in forest management. It also equips managers across the country with a practical approach to incorporating a suite of adaptation actions into silvicultural planning. Treatments and findings from this study become part of an active network of long-term silviculture research, and create a model experimental design for research on forest adaptation to climate change.

Science-management partnerships built through the ASCC project are helping to inform research and advance communication of climate change adaptation at both a local and national scale, the lack of which is often a barrier to on-the-ground application of climate change science. In this way, ASCC addresses the need for operational, tangible examples of adaptive management which field practitioners can directly apply to their own forest types to prepare for climate change impacts and enable ecosystems to adapt under uncertain futures.

 

Progress & Next Steps

ASCC is engaging researchers and managers in several other regions to expand the network and implement similar processes at additional sites. These sites, spread across the United States, capture several major forest types and allow analysis of their unique responses to climate change. Collaborators on the ASCC projects are currently:

  • Collecting pre-treatment data and developing plans for treatment implementation
  • Preparing for harvest treatment implementation and developing long-term monitoring plans
  • Collecting post-treatment measurements
  • Engaging new partners for potential future ASCC installations

 

More Information

A summary of ASCC was published in the May 2017 issue of The Journal of Forestry (download here).

Download a two-page project overview.