Chippewa National Forest: Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC)


The Chippewa NF has worked with partners to design and implement a silvicultural study for climate change adaptation on the Cutfoot Experimental Forest.

The Chippewa National Forest (CNF) is participating in a nation-wide study called Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC). The goals of this project are to test different silvicultural approaches to climate change adaptation that will also serve as useful examples across the country.

Project Area

ASCC will be implemented at 4-6 study sites across the USA, with a standardized approach to treatment design and general principles. The installation on the Chippewa National Forest Cutfoot Experimental Forest was the first project site to be planned and implemented. The Cutfoot Experimental Forest covers approximately 3,000 acres, the majority which consists of natural-origin red pine stands. The stands identified for this project are dominated by red pine regenerated from a fire roughly 100 years ago. Learn more about the Cutfoot Experimental Forest here:

Management Goals

A team of natural resource specialists from the CNF and researchers familiar with the Cutfoot Experimental Forest participated in a three-day workshop in July 2013 to develop the study design for the CNF ASCC project site.  The team developed a set of Desired Future Condition statements, Objectives, and Tactics for each major climate adaptation trajectory (resistance, resilience, transition). These three trajectories are summarized briefly below:

  • Resistance = Maintain relatively unchanged conditions over time; life boat red pine into a dryer future by increasing  soil moisture availability during drought.
  • Resilience = red pine is still dominant, but minor species can become more abundant and red pine fluctuates over time. Productivity remains high and disturbance remains low, but these factors can vary within an acceptable range. 
  • Transition = a variety of future-adapted species gradually become more abundant than red pine, while productivity and disturbance remain within slightly wider acceptable ranges. 

Climate Change Impacts

Key climate change impacts that the project team considered for the Cutfoot Experimental Forest included:
Increasing drought stress, leading to more damage from pests and diseases
Increased risk of wildfire

Challenges and Opportunities


Red pine, the dominant tree species in these stands, is projected to have reduced habitat suitability under future climate scenarios
Other northern species on site are expected to have reduced habitat suitability under climate change: quaking aspen, balsam fir, paper birch, jack pine, white spruce


Some tree species found locally are expected to have increased habitat suitability under climate change: bur oak, red maple, bitternut hickory, black cherry, white oak
Habitat suitability for eastern white pine and northern red oak is not expected to change substantially in north-central Minnesota

Adaptation Actions

The ASCC project was designed to explicitly test three different adaptation options: resistance, resilience, and transition. A detailed silcicultural prescription was designed for each adaptation option, which was replicated several times across the study site.  The study site also includes several no-action "control" stands for comparison. Some of the adaptation tactics employed in this project include: (numbers refer to the menu of Adaptation Strategies and Approaches)

Resistance treatment
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
Free thinning to 100-120 BA
Resistance treatment
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Reserve large-diameter trees
Resilience treatment
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
Variable-density thinning (unthinned skips, thinned matrix, 0.5-acre gaps)
Resilience treatment
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Plant future-adapted species in gaps (white pine, bur oak, red oak)
Transition treatment
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Irregular shelterwood with expanding gaps
Transition treatment
9.7. Introduce species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Plant species expected to tolerate warmer, drier conditions (ponderosa pine, white oak)


Monitoring is an essential component of the ASCC study site. Research partners from many institutions are working together to investigate the effects of the different silvicultural treatments. Some of the monitoring items include:
Residual tree survival and growth
Songbird community responses
Planted seedling survival and growth
Natural tree regeneration

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Project Documents

Next Steps

The ASCC Project is led by Linda Nagel (Colorado State University), Jim Guldin (Forest Service Southern Research Station), Chris Swanston (Forest Service Northern Research Station and NIACS),Maria Janowiak (Forest Service Northern Research Station and NIACS), and Molly Roske (Colorado State University). The original science team that developed the conceptual framework for ASCC also included Brian Palik (Forest Service Northern Research Station), Linda Joyce (Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station), Connie Millar (Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station), Dave Peterson (Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station), Lisa Ganio (Oregon State University), and Matt Powers (Oregon State University). Brian Palik is the site lead for the CNF ASCC project and key partners include the University of Vermont (Tony D'Amato), Iowa State University (Lisa Schulte-Moore), and the University of Minnesota (Rebecca Montgomery and Jacob Muller). Project participants will continue tending and monitoring the ASCC project site over the next year. This will include vegetation control around planted seedlings, and deer browse protection on pine seedlings. Planning is underway for a second entry into the Resistance treatment to reduce basal area to 90-100 sq ft. As for monitoring related to the research questions of the ASCC project, team members will monitor survival and growth of planted seedlings, assess health and productivity of trees, characterize songbird community response to the treatments, and use FVS to model forest growth and tree survival for treatments and climate change scenarios.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen


Upland conifers, Assisted migration, Research

Last Updated

Tuesday, October 25, 2016