The NorthWoods Stewardship Center updated its management plan in 2015, focusing on three primary goals:
- To promote forest health, including intact natural communities and wildlife habitat values that support a diverse native flora and fauna.
- To cultivate a variety of forest products while improving long term timber value and forest productivity and modeling sustainable forestry practices.
- To create and maintain outdoor education and recreation values that serve as a community resource and best support delivery of the NorthWoods mission.
More specific management objectives and stand-level management were developed to help accomplish these goals. For this project, forest managers for the property revisited the 2015 forest management plan to consider how climate change may reinforce or alter any aspects of forest stewardship on the property.
Climate Change Impacts
Challenges and Opportunities
The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify some potential management actions to address climate impacts, which focus on: (1) declining habitat for northern tree species, (2) erosion, water quality degradation and infrastructure damage from intense precipitation events, and (3) exotic invasive plant colonization.
Based on recommendations from an evaluation and a 2015 forest management plan using the Adaptation Workbook, the following management changes are planned for the NorthWoods demonstration forest:
- Tree species favored for retention in pre-commercial thinning be adjusted to favor native future-adapted species such as black cherry and red maple, while decreasing proportions of species expected to decline such as white ash, yellow birch and sugar maple. This resilience-building tactic will focus on existing forests that are diverse and healthy.
- Many forest areas degraded by heavy logging in the 1980s-90s are dominated by early successional trees (primarily gray birch) with low ecological value and declining health. Management will mimic natural disturbance by establishing patches of younger forest, creating a planting site for non-invasive transition species such as red oak, black walnut and shagbark hickory.
- Invasive plant populations will be controlled with 90-100% removal, which would not be feasible in more heavily-invaded areas. By removing invasive species before they impact native populations, diverse plant assemblages that are resistant to climate impacts will be maintained.
- Forest roads and trails will be improved to withstand more intense rainfall events and increase access during non-frozen conditions when possible, allowing future management and outreach and reducing surface water degradation.
- Areas of refugia will be maintained where vigorous examples of climate-threatened natural communities exist, and where non-climate stress factors are minimal. One example is a stand of eastern hemlock, a species declining in Vermont due to hemlock woolly adelgid. Spread of the adelgid through the region has slowed and it is not present in this area, so this stand may reasonably be expected to persist in a changing climate.
More details are available in the Adaptation Plan.