CLIMATE CHANGE AND FORESTS OF THE FUTURE: MANAGING IN THE FACE OF UNCERTAINTY

Authors

  • Constance I. Millar,

    Corresponding author
    1. USDA Forest Service, Sierra Nevada Research Center, Pacific Southwest Research Station, 800 Buchanan Street, Albany, California 94710 USA
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  • Nathan L. Stephenson,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Sequoia–Kings Canyon Field Station, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, California 93271 USA
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  • Scott L. Stephens

    1. Division of Ecosystem Science, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, 137 Mulford Hall, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3114 USA
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  • Corresponding Editor: D. McKenzie.

Abstract

We offer a conceptual framework for managing forested ecosystems under an assumption that future environments will be different from present but that we cannot be certain about the specifics of change. We encourage flexible approaches that promote reversible and incremental steps, and that favor ongoing learning and capacity to modify direction as situations change. We suggest that no single solution fits all future challenges, especially in the context of changing climates, and that the best strategy is to mix different approaches for different situations. Resources managers will be challenged to integrate adaptation strategies (actions that help ecosystems accommodate changes adaptively) and mitigation strategies (actions that enable ecosystems to reduce anthropogenic influences on global climate) into overall plans. Adaptive strategies include resistance options (forestall impacts and protect highly valued resources), resilience options (improve the capacity of ecosystems to return to desired conditions after disturbance), and response options (facilitate transition of ecosystems from current to new conditions). Mitigation strategies include options to sequester carbon and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. Priority-setting approaches (e.g., triage), appropriate for rapidly changing conditions and for situations where needs are greater than available capacity to respond, will become increasingly important in the future.

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