Second College Grant: Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC)

The Dartmouth College Second College Grant 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 and forest health adaptation that will also serve as useful examples across the country.

Project Area

The Second College Grant is 27,000 acres of forests, rivers, and wetlands in the Northern Forest region of New Hampshire and has been owned and managed by Dartmouth College since 1797. The forest is predominantly rich northern hardwoods dominated by sugar maple, American beech and yellow birch with lesser components of red maple, red spruce, and other species. “The Grant” has long been utilized for timber, but is recognized as a model forest used for wilderness recreation, timber harvesting, and more recently, for forest and natural resource research. The ASCC project implemented at The Grant is one of 4 study sites across the USA using a standardized approach to treatment design and general principles. The installation on the Second College Grant is the second project site to be implemented.

Management Goals

A team of natural resource specialists and researchers familiar with the Second College Grant convened for a three-day workshop in the summer of 2016 to develop the study design for the 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 briefly summarized below:

  • Resistance = Maintain relatively unchanged conditions over time; Encourage a multi-aged / size structure and maintain quality across all size classes; Maintain hydrological cycle and erosion; Stable carbon pools with accreting living biomass carbon; Maintain/increase vigor and quality of residual trees while maintaining current productivity levels consistent with type.
  • Resilience = Multiple combinations of species composition and structure present (e.g., multiple pathways to recovery from disturbance); High overall tree species and functional diversity with increased component of local species adapted to future climate conditions/disturbance compared to current condition; Multiple age classes present; Increased amount of biological legacies and dead wood; Same growth/productivity as Resistance treatment, but allowing for some deviation/oscillation; High production of beech hard mast for wildlife.
  • Transition = Increased dominance of species adapted to future climate change currently on site plus increased proportion of planted species (≥ 20% composition) not currently on site that are better-adapted to future climate change; Uneven-aged, 20% of the area in regeneration (gaps); Increased amount of biological legacies and dead wood; Increased diversity of tree functional traits.  

Climate Change Impacts

Key climate change impacts that the project team considered for the Second College Grant included:
Increasing wind and ice events causing damage to tree crowns and other parts of the forest
Increasing drought stress, leading to more damage from pests and diseases
Loss of key species or functional groups critical for maintaining ecosystem services

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


Sugar maple, one of 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


Some tree species found nearby are expected to have increased habitat suitability under climate change: red oak, red maple, white pine, eastern hemlock
Habitat suitability for yellow birch and red spruce is not expected to change substantially in northern New Hampshire

Adaptation Actions

The ASCC project was designed to explicitly test three different adaptation options: resistance, resilience, and transition. A detailed silvicultural prescription was designed for each adaptation option, which was replicated four times across the study site in 25-acre treatment units.  The study site also includes four no-action "control" stands for comparison. Some of the adaptation tactics employed in this project include: 

1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
Single tree selection, occasional groups of 2-3 trees removed. Cutting cycle length of 20 years.
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Maintain current abundance of snags and downed dead wood
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
20% of the area in gaps (0.1-0.25 ac) and 20% in reserves (no cutting). Light thinning in remaining matrix.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Increase yellow birch to promote resilience to wind and ice, as well as future adapted red spruce, red maple, and beech.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Variable density thinning / irregular shelterwood; 20% of the area in gaps (0.25 -1 ac; ~120 rotation) with thinned matrix and heavy feathering. 10-20% uncut in first entry.
9.7. Introduce species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Plant species not found on site expected to tolerate future conditions (considering growth form, functional traits such as heat and drought tolerance, and wood anatomy).
Species may include northern red oak, bitternut hickory, eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, basswood, black birch, and bigtooth aspen.


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:
Natural regeneration in gaps and harvest areas
Residual tree survival and growth
Songbird and other wildlife community responses
Planted seedling survival and growth
Increased carbon pools through living and downed wood material

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Fourteen scientists and managers sit on a porch at the Second College Grant
A researcher installs a marker for the center of a research plot.
A northern hardwood forest
People standing in a northern hardwood forest
A close up showing the rough bark of a beech tree.
Six people talk in the forest while standing around a large, partially-decomposed tree stump.
A map showing research plot locations.
Map of on-going and proposed ASCC sites, collaborators, and partners.

Project Documents

Project Videos

The Second College Grant ASCC site
Climate Considerations at "The Grant"
Climate adaptation options at "The Grant"

Next Steps

Stands will be marked and measurements on pre-treatment vegetation, carbon, wildlife, and spatial data will be collected in the summer of 2017. Harvest will be initiated in the late summer and fall of 2017. Project participants will continue tending and monitoring the Second College Grant ASCC site over the next year. This will include planting seedlings including vegetation control and deer browse protection around planted seedlings. 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 LANDIS-II to model forest and landscape dynamics associated with treatments and climate change and forest health scenarios. The site lead for the Second College Grant ASCC project is Tony D’Amato (University of Vermont and Northeast Climate Science Center), and key partners include Dartmouth College (Matt Ayres, Kevin Evans, Rich Howarth, Dave Lutz, Fiona Jevon, Liz Studer), USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station (Chris Woodall, Dave King, Brian Palik), and University of Maine (Shawn Fraver). Graduate students involved in the project include Peter Clark (UVM), Fiona Jevon (Dartmouth), Jen Santoro (UVM), and Liz Studer (Dartmouth). 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).

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria or learn more at:


Upland hardwoods, Assisted migration, Planting, Research

Last Updated

Wednesday, February 21, 2018