Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project Y091110

    Assessing Alternative Forest Management Strategies Under Climate Change
Project lead: Nelson, Harry (University of British Columbia)
Contributing Authors: Nelson, Harry; Mathey, Anne-Helene; Nitschke, Craig R.
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
This research addresses a key knowledge gap – investigating how different forest management strategies might perform under the expected impacts of climate change. Existing management policies are based on establishing and maintaining a fixed forest structure (reserving habitat in certain areas while creating even-aged forest elsewhere). Climate change introduces not only the increased risk of disturbances associated with infestations such as MPB and fire but also changing climatic conditions that can affect the distribution of forest species across the landscape. Both changes affect the ability of forest managers to not only maintain timber supply but also to achieve their environmental objectives over the long term. By using state of the art climate change projections and sophisticated modeling techniques we can examine expected changes in forest conditions (forest cover, type, age structure and fire regime) and outputs (timber harvests, wildlife habitat) under alternative forest management strategies.

This research will offer new insight into two key aspects of adapting to climate change. First, the model permits the use of spatially explicit constraints and incorporates spatial attributes into its decision-making criteria. This then allows us to investigate to what extent the translation of objectives into on-the ground forest management practices may have an impact on expected outcomes (e.g. spatial constraints may prove to be more stringent if they are trying to maintain fixed stand structures under the changing climactic conditions). Second, the proposed research allows us to a) assess how well adapted our current policies are to climate change by integrating different management strategies into the modeling and b) identify whether new policies might be required. The model also permits us to take into account the economics of different forest management strategies (one output of the model will be net economic margins associated with harvesting activity) as well as the economic profile of the timber that will be available under different management approaches.

Gaining an understanding of forest ecosystems’ vulnerability is a first step if we are to determine where and what adaptation strategies are to be incorporated into long-term forest planning and to providing guidance on how to manage for the risks associated with climatic change. The ability to maintain a sustainable forest industry will rely on our understanding of ecosystem vulnerability to climate change. In order to ground the research in reality, this research will focus on a case study: TFL 48 in Northeastern BC. We will focus on two aspects of climate change: the modification of stand dynamics of forest ecosystems in the study area (growth and yield, disturbance regimes including increased risk of fire and other events) and the modification of tree species regeneration potential. Building directly from existing research and climate modeling tools (Hamman and Wang 2006), this study will add the projections of the future regeneration potentials of the dominant tree species to the existing projection of new geographic positions of biogeoclimatic zones (Nitschke and Innes 2007). Such a complete and spatially explicit assessment of potential climate change impacts has not been conducted before for BC’s forests. These projections will be used as inputs to a management decision model, guiding the choice of regeneration species and the alteration of growth and yield curves in forest management. We will then use a forest-planning model to analyze the outcomes of different forest management strategies given climate change considerations (Mathey et al., 2007). These outcomes can be expressed in terms of changes in forest conditions (forest cover, forest type, and age class structure) and outputs (timber harvests, wildlife habitat).

The management scenarios will be a combination of both the objectives (e.g. trying to maintain a stable flow of timber) along with a set of management strategies and practices (e.g. operational rules). We will first identify the key objectives and then evaluate current management strategies and practices and identify associated risks. We will also model differences in the degree of impact to permit us to test the sensitivity of these outcomes to our assumptions about climate change. We can then test alternative strategies (given our initial objectives) and then consider modeling other objectives and what strategies might be best suited to meet those objectives. For example, we will examine the effectiveness of different forest management strategies that involve various levels of retention and their cost-effectiveness in meeting timber supply objectives when regeneration issues arise (e.g. Coates et. al 2006). The assessment can also help identify where different strategies may perform better. Because we can conduct an economic analysis of the impact of different strategies, this allows us to identify tradeoffs between different strategies (or the costs of trying to meet certain objectives). Further, where we identify strategies that are more cost-effective in achieving specified objectives, or better able to meet the objectives, this research provides the opportunity to examine how to incorporate them into existing management plans and policy processes. The results of this research will be directly used by forest managers in the study area as support for decision making. This research can also identify what barriers might exist to adopting better strategies where these barriers could be policy-related, financial or distributional (i.e. high costs or impacts borne by one party). The outcome analysis may also identify how incentives or policy changes may be used to facilitate adaptation (e.g. reducing the risk of sharp fluctuations in future timber supply or loss of habitat).
Related projects:  FSP_Y102110


Executive summary (86Kb)
Technical report (1.1Mb)

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Updated August 16, 2010 

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