Motive Project

Article alert: Climate change adaptation strategies for federal forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA

by: Ulla Vänttinen

Spies, T.A., Giesen, T.W., Swanson, F.J., Franklin, J.F., Lach, D., Johnson, K.N., 2010. Climate change adaptation strategies for federal forests of the Pacific Northwest, USA: Ecological, policy, and socio-economic perspectives. Landscape Ecology 25 (8), pp. 1185-1199.


Conserving biological diversity in a changing climate poses major challenges for land managers and society. Effective adaptive strategies for dealing with climate change require a socio-ecological systems perspective. We highlight some of the projected ecological responses to climate change in the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A and identify possible adaptive actions that federal forest managers could take. The forest landscape, ownership patterns and recent shift toward ecologically based forest management provide a good starting place for conserving biological diversity under climate change. Nevertheless, undesirable changes in species and ecosystems will occur and a number of adaptive actions could be undertaken to lessen the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems. These include: manipulation of stand and landscape structure to increase ecological resistance and resilience; movement of species and genotypes; and engaging in regional, multi-ownership planning to make adaptive actions more effective. Although the language and goals of environmental laws and policies were developed under the assumption of stable climate and disturbance regimes, they appear to be flexible enough to accommodate many adaptive actions. It is less certain, however, if sufficient social license and economic capacity exist to undertake these actions. Given the history of contentious and litigious debate about federal forest management in this region, it is likely that some of these actions will be seen as double-edge swords, spurring social resistance, especially where actions involve cutting trees. Given uncertainties and complexity, collaborative efforts that promote learning (e. g. adaptive management groups) must be rejuvenated and expanded.

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