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Climate change considerations were integrated into a proposed timber sale.

Staff from the Forestry Division of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation used the Adaptation Workbook to consider climate change risks and management opportunities for timber sale on 42 acres of state forest land.

Project Area

Bristol Lot Forest Management Project
The Bristol Lot Timber Sale is located in Wrentham, MA within the F. Gilbert Hills State Forest. The proposed area is an even-aged stand mainly comprised of Northern red oak and mixed oak forest types on abandoned agricultural land. The dominate tree species are northern red oak, white oak, black oak, and red maple. Hickory, eastern white pine, American beech, and black birch are also present to a lesser degree. The understory consists of low amounts of white pine, red maple, and hickory. The project area ranges in age from approximately 85 to 100 years old. On average, overstory trees are sawtimber in size with medium to high densities.
Many trees in the proposed project area were inundated with gypsy moths this past spring. Recent drought conditions have limited the effectiveness of a soil borne fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, which has helped keep gypsy moth populations in check since the last large outbreak during the 1980s. As oak is their preferred host, this stand is highly susceptible to heavy defoliation, a decrease in growth, and an increase in mortality.

Management Goals

forest road

The goals for this property tier to a broader strategy developed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to outline the management activities occurring across all of its lands. For woodlands, this includes goals related to the maintaining the ecological integrity of forested ecosystems, providing opportunities for wildlife habitat and recreation, and pursuing sustainable forestry activities. Management objectives for this site generally focused on increasing the structural diversity of the stand and regenerating the site with oak seedlings through forest harvest and, if needed, the use of prescribed fire.

Climate Change Impacts

The forester working on this project identified the following climate change effects as being the most important at this site:
This region is expected to experience warmer temperatures, while future precipitation is not projected to increase during the summer months. This could increase the risk of soil moisture deficits and drought in this location.
This site has already been affected by insect pests, such as gypsy moth. Increased forest stress or droughty conditions resulting from a changing climate could further increase the susceptibility of the forest to insect pests, forest diseases, and invas
This site has relatively low species and structural diversity, which reduces its capacity to cope with some climate change impacts.
Oak forests are generally tolerant of disturbance, and so it is expected that the site would stay in this forest type. Oak species are generally projected to have increased habitat suitability under climate change.

Challenges and Opportunities

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


Increased risk of soil moisture deficits and drought during the growing season could slow plant growth, cause stress or mortality, and increase susceptibility to insect pests and forest diseases.
Drought could also have ripple effects on fall foliage, wood supply, or other economic resources.
Trees that have already been affected by recent drought and insect defoliation may not stump sprout (a preferred regeneration method) as vigorously as desired.
Increases in seasonal precipitation and extreme precipitation events may increase the costs with implementing Best Management Practices to protect water quality.


Insect pests may cause tree mortality, and if the areas of mortality are small and scattered, this may help to increase species and structural diversity.
A changing climate and milder winter season may shift the timing of the change in seasons, allowing for early- or late-season prescribed burns to be implemented.
If oak does not regenerate well after harvest or if the trees continue to be stressed in the future, there may be potential to maintain the site in a more open woodland condition, which would benefit some wildlife species.

Adaptation Actions

The DCR forester responsible for preparing this timber sale used the Adaptation Workbook to identify how the proposed timber sale could help the area to adapt to climate change. These actions largely centered on increasing both species and structural diversity. 

Entire stand
Perform a shelterwood with reserves to increase structural and species diversity while maintaining aspects of the mature forest. Focus on removing crowded, damaged, or stressed trees.
Create suitable physical conditions for natural regeneration through site preparation by encouraging scarification.
Use prescribed fire to maintain oak regeneration and sustain a mixed oak ecosystem. When possible, use prescribed fire to control invasive exotic or undesirable species.
Create a mix of species, age classes, and stand structures to reduce the availability of host species for pests and pathogens.
Retain habitat elements of the mature forest (e.g. mast production, vertical structural diversity, large diameter trees).
Favor the regeneration of oak (a drought- and heat-tolerant species) on south-facing slopes with shallow soils, or other sites that are expected to become warmer and drier.
Plant blight-resistant American chestnut as it is more resistant to gypsy moth. Planting disease-resistant chestnut in order to reestablish a form of this species on the landscape.


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Compare pre-harvest conditions to seedling, sapling, and tree densities at 5 years.
Conduct a prescribed burn if oak seedlings are being overtopped by other hardwood species.
Visually inspect large diameter reserve trees for overall health.
Ensure the regeneration of oak species at a rate of 400+ stems per acre following a prescribed burn.

Next Steps

This project will be harvested in the coming year. Depending on this year’s possible gypsy moth infestation, coupled with the current drought, the proposed silvicultural treatment may have to be adjusted.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact


Insect pests
Wildlife habitat

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