At the base of a large white pine — Ontario’s provincial tree — a group of forest management experts discuss what climate change will mean for this species and its other forest companions.
These professionals come from industry, academia, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Institute of Forestry and FPInnovations. They’re establishing a new study that will examine various adaptive measures so that Canadian forests remain healthy in the face of climate change.
A dire need for a plan
“I am concerned about the effects of climate change on our forests. I like forests, I like silviculture and I want to have healthy forests in the future” says Michael Hoepting, one of the study’s project foresters. Changes such as increased moisture stress, warmer winter temperatures, longer growing seasons and extreme storms could change how tree species reproduce, grow and interact within forests. Many species will also likely see contraction and expansion of suitable growing locations.
Helping forests adapt to climate change is going to be a priority for forest managers in the coming years. This means they will need tailored information and management techniques to help them adapt and prepare Canadian forests for future conditions.
To address this need, the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) began developing a large-scale and collaborative Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) study at the Petawawa Research Forest (PRF) in Chalk River, Ontario. The ASCC study will cover 200 hectares of white pine forests in eastern Ontario.
The collaborative nature of the study will be key to its success. The forestry industry will provide key insights that reflect intimate lived experiences of how forests respond to different disturbances such as fire, harvesting, invasive pests, and increasingly, extreme weather events. FPInnovations will study the economic implications of implementing different tactics as well.
The study will also become part of the larger North-American Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) network, a collaborative effort that researches long-term ecosystem responses to a range of climate change adaptation actions across different forest ecosystem types throughout the United States and Canada.
“This study is the first of its kind in Canada” says CWFC’s Trevor Jones, the study’s Scientific Lead. In fact, this research will be the first outside of the United States. “No one has implemented a real-life climate change adaptation study this large and this comprehensive in Canada before”, he adds.
From idea to reality
To establish the study, CWFC hosted a two-day collaborative workshop in Pembroke, Ontario, the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change Workshop – Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest. The workshop included forest management experts from government, academia, and industry. It was coordinated, promoted and financially supported by the Canadian Institute of Forestry, the Canadian Institute of Forestry – Algonquin Section, the Friends of the Petawawa Research Forest, and FPInnovations. The workshop was facilitated by forestry and climate change adaptation specialists from Colorado State University, the United States Forest Service Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science as well as Natural Resources Canada. Those from the United States were principal investigators of the existing ASCC network and acted as facilitators for the development of this PRF research study. The outcome was a draft plan for the ASCC study.
The more minds, the better
Being a public research forest, there are always several different organizations conducting research at the PRF at any given time. Many of its research installations result in collaborations between different research organizations.
When asked if they would like to hear from other people and organizations who want to collaborate, Hoepting answers with an emphatic “Yes! The Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change project was initiated through collaboration, and we want that to continue. While the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre is leading the installation and the core monitoring of the study, we hope that others will build upon this platform. We can’t do it all on our own, so we welcome others to pursue their own short and long-term questions related to adaptive silviculture treatments.”
Within this collaborative environment, FPInnovations will be providing technical support in the evaluation of the equipment and planned work methods and by evaluating the costs and operational variables of the treatments under study.