Climate Change and...

Re-Framing Forest and Resource Management Strategies for a Climate Change Context

Contents of the ToolBox: Adaptation, Mitigation and the "5-R Strategies"

Adaptation Strategies: 3. Enable Ecosystems and Resources to Respond to Change. "Beginner's Mind" approach. Responding to and managing change is the most proactive approach we describe. This strategy assumes that a decision-maker acknowledges the inevitability of change and adopts the humility that we have limited capacity to understand what change will happen at the scales needed by managers. Many types of actions can assist species, ecosystems, or resources to move to new and adapted conditions and processes. Some choices are highly deterministic – that is, acting as if we can predict what changes will occur. Others are based on uncertainty about direction of change. The following are examples of possible tools:

  • Assist species and resources to follow changing environments. Using ecological and climatic knowledge, augmented with information from available downscaled regional climate models, directed decisions may be made about ecological restoration, reforestation, fire and flood reclamation, etc. For instance, species (seed, seedlings, capture/release individuals) could be moved from warmer (downhill, south aspect, or warm range margin) environments to cooler locations. Such an approach may entail moving propagules outside their current native ranges and into "neo-native" locations (Millar 1998). This assisted migration remains little tested and highly debated in the scientific and conservation literature (McLachlan et al. 2006). Establishing forest or restoration projects on what had been considered "off-site" locations is another example of assisting species to follow change, as is altering the composition of species in plantations from former associations to new mixes.
  • Anticipate and plan for associated risks. Already resource managers are experiencing the kinds of changes, especially in extreme events, that are catalyzed by climate change. These include, for instance, massive insect outbreaks and unprecedented forest diebacks, extreme fire events, fires and insect mortality in subalpine forests and other high-elevation environments, year-round fires, and extreme wind and flood events. Preparing for these, for instance by retaining entomological expertise, year-round fire staff including fire ecologists, and Wilderness resource monitoring, are proactive choices.
  • Experiment creatively and learn from experiments. By spreading risks and employing "bet-hedging" practices, much can be learned about how species adapt to new environments. This might entail, for instance:
    • -- Using redundancy. In forest plantation, post-fire reforestation, or ecological restoration, using redundancy in project locations may be useful, e.g., planting on several traditionally non-optimal sites for species (up, down, different aspects, species range margins).
    • -- Relaxing genetic-management guidelines. Rather than adherence to strict on-site or near-site germplasm standards and transfer rules for propagule collection and replacement, a choice may be made instead to augment genetic diversity by collecting from adjacent seedzones or populations for restoration projects (Fig 3.).
    • -- Experimenting with refugia. From a paleo-ecological perspective, some types of environments appear to have buffered species through climate change better than others, and served as local refugia during adverse conditions. Establishing such areas as refugia for some kinds of species might prove successful in maintaining their persistence so that they can serve as propagule sources for adapted new populations.
  • Increase diversity. A widely held assumption, from financial investing to forest health, is that diverse conditions withstand threat and unstable times better than homogeneous conditions. Diversity also favors adaptive responses by increasing the pool of candidates available for selection in new environments. Increasing diversity in ecological habitat, forest plantations, riparian ecosystems, watershed conditions, or rural community capacities (extending from ski-resort to four-season resort) may be a prudent strategy. Diverse landscape conditions break up opportunities for synchronous events, such as massive insect outbreaks (Mulholland et al. 2004) An opportune time to promote diversity is during post-disturbance management.
  • Promote connected landscapes. Over eons of natural climate change, species adapted primarily by migrating to new locations (range shifts). This is successful only when species have suitable habitat and adequate time to colonize new environments. Managers can assist this natural process by fostering connected landscapes (e.g., riparian zones), delineating large management-unit areas, lowering fragmentation, increasing management flexibility.
bottom right