Adaptation was defined by the IPCC in its fourth assessment report as initiatives and measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects. In the context of forestry, adaptation means reducing the vulnerability of forests, as well as using forests to reduce the vulnerability of society to climate change.
The need for resilient woodlands
As trees take many decades to mature, foresters must anticipate much further into the future than other land-managers. Although our knowledge about the likely effects of climate change is continually improving, we cannot wait until our predictive research is perfect to develop strategies and actions that address climate change, as it never will be perfect.
We want our woodlands to be able to recover from disturbance such as a disease outbreak or fire, and tolerate disturbance without change (eg withstanding extreme weather events such as gales or flood). We also want our woodlands to be adaptive to change. This requires forest managers to take more flexible and adaptive management approaches.
Our forests need to be resilient, resistant and adaptable if future generations are to derive the goods and services that we enjoy from our woodlands today. By focussing on actions to manage for resilient forests we will sustain the delivery of those economic, environmental and societal benefits that flow from wooded landscapes.
There are many uncertainties in the extent and range of climate change and its likely impact on trees, management systems and forest operations. A key basis for risk planning and management is diversification: from broadening the choice of genetic material, mixing tree species in stands, to varying management systems and the timing of operations.
Resilience can be a difficult concept to grasp, but for woodlands there are three key areas for action:
- Choose the tree species you plant wisely. Match it to your site type and the predicted climatic conditions of the future
- Think carefully about the silvicultural management system you employ and the infrastructure you will need to undertake it. Be prepared to adapt your plans
- Select the most appropriate provenance and consider the contribution that your actions have for genetic diversity and genetic conservation
How we can help
Natural Resources Wales is committed to increasing the diversity of the woodlands we manage, and encourage other woodland owners to do the same. We have developed guidance to help you with these choices and we are investing in research and development to improve our knowledge.