Adaptation Forestry in Minnesota's Northwoods
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Forest restoration and management goals are shifting in northern Minnesota in light of new information on climate trends. Adaptation forestry encompasses a combination of practices designed to favor native populations and species likely to persist under warmer, drier conditions. The overarching project goal is to increase the adaptive capacity of northern forests such that they continue to sustain a variety of services, including carbon sequestration, fiber production, watershed protection, and wildlife habitat. We are currently testing the feasibility and efficacy of adaptation forestry in the northern Great Lakes region in three common forest types: Boreal-Mixed, Pine, and Hardwoods. 12 sites (2,000 acres total) recently subjected to a range of structural treatments (gap creation, shelterwood, and clear-cut with reserves) were coupled with “adaptation plantings” of species that are likely to thrive under changed climate conditions (e.g., red oak, bur oak, white pine). Seedlings, ~110,000 total, originated from two source locations, one that reflects current adaptation to the climate of northern Minnesota and another from a more southern source in central Minnesota. To date, we have assessed results from two growing seasons by tracking survival, growth and phenological characteristics of planted seedlings. This project is a first step in determining whether adaptation management can be used as a tool to help northern forests transition to an uncertain future. Cooperation with state, federal, and academic partners may ultimately influence the adaptive capacity across millions of acres in the Great Lakes region.