Motive Project

Article alert: Exploring adaptation to climate change in the forests of central Nova Scotia, Canada


Steenberg, J.W.N., Duinker, P.N., Bush, P.G., 2011. Exploring adaptation to climate change in the forests of central Nova Scotia, Canada. Forest Ecology and Management 262 (12), pp. 2316-2327.


The threat of climate change is now recognized as an imminent issue at the forefront of the forest sector. Incorporating adaptation to climate change into forest management will be vital in the continual and sustainable provision of forest ecosystem services. The objective of this study is to investigate climate change adaptation in forest management using the landscape disturbance model LANDIS-II. The study area was comprised of 14,000 ha of forested watersheds in central Nova Scotia, Canada, managed by Halifax Water, the municipal water utility. Simulated climate change adaptation was directed towards three components of timber harvesting: the canopy-opening size of harvests, the age of harvested trees within a stand, and the species composition of harvested trees within a stand. These three adaptation treatments were simulated singly and in combination with each other in the modeling experiment. The timber supply was found to benefit from climate change in the absence of any adaptation treatment, though there was a loss of target tree species and old growth forest. In the age treatment, all trees in a harvested stand at or below the age of sexual maturity were exempt from harvesting. This was done to promote more-rapid succession to climax forest communities typical of the study area. It was the most effective in maintaining the timber supply, but least effective in promoting resistance to climate change at the prescribed harvest intensity. In the composition treatment, individual tree species were selected for harvest based on their response to climate change in previous research and on management values at Halifax Water to progressively facilitate forest transition under the altered climate. This proved the most effective treatment for maximizing forest age and old-growth area and for promoting stands composed of climatically suited target species. The size treatment was aimed towards building stand complexity and resilience to climate change, and was the most influential treatment on the response of timber supply, forest age, and forest composition to timber harvest when it was combined with other treatments. The combination of all three adaptation treatments yielded an adequate representation of target species and old forest without overly diminishing the timber supply, and was therefore the most effective in minimizing the trade-offs between management values and objectives. These findings support a diverse and multi-faceted approach to climate change adaptation.

► Climate change lead to an increase in timber supply without adaptation.
► Age-related adaptation maintained timber supply, but costly to forest ecosystems.
► Adapting what species to harvest was effective for forest age/composition goals.
► Adapting canopy opening sizes in timber harvests provided a stable approach.
► A diverse approach to adaptation is best for minimizing management trade-offs.

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