Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change –
Dartmouth College, Second College Grant

Research Issue

Forest managers across the Nation are confronted by change. As temperature and precipitation patterns shift in response to changes in climate and non-native insects and diseases proliferate, today’s management practices may not produce the desired results in tomorrow’s forests. To support natural resource management and silvicultural decision making in the face of observed and projected climatic changes and disturbance regimes, scientists and managers are partnering in the “Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change” (ASCC) project.

This innovative project is a collaborative effort focused on implementing experimental activities within a network of different forest ecosystems across the United States and Canada to provide forest managers with operational examples of how to integrate global change adaptation into on-the-ground action that will foster resilience and enable adaptation to uncertain futures.

The ASCC sites include the Flathead National Forest, MT; San Juan National Forest, CO; J.W. Jones Ecological Research Center, GA; Chippewa National Forest, MN; Petawawa Research Forest, Ontario, Canada, and Dartmouth College’s Second College Grant, NH.

Our Research

Map of study area.The Dartmouth College Second College Grant consists of 27,000 acres of forests, rivers, and wetlands in northern New Hampshire. These northern hardwood forests are currently dominated by sugar maple, yellow birch, American beech, red maple, and to a lesser degree, red spruce and balsam fir. However, some of these species are projected to fare poorly in a climate change future and with increasing spread of invasive insects and diseases.

Climate change scenario modeling shows future impacts in northern hardwood forested systems may include increased wind and ice storm events, increased drought stress, and a loss of key species that are critical for maintaining existing ecosystem processes.

In an effort that may shape decision making on timber harvesting, recreation, and other land management activities into the future, 400 acres of “The Grant” have been set aside as an ASCC study site, testing three different management activities to determine what approaches best prepare northern hardwood forest ecosystems for climate change. These three approaches include:

  • Resistance: Maintain relatively unchanged conditions over time.
  • Resilience: Accommodate some changes but encourage a return to prior condition after disturbance.
  • Transition: Intentionally facilitate change to encourage adaptive responses to new conditions.

Treatment options vary within the adaptation approaches. In plots managed using resistance methods, single-tree selection harvesting is used to maintain existing conditions. In the resilience plots, small gap creation is used to encourage an increase in yellow birch, a species resilient to wind and ice storms. In addition, drought-adapted species such as red maple and beech are encouraged, and permanent retention patches are maintained to provide a range of resource conditions. Lastly, in the transition plots, land managers are implementing variable density thinning and planting of projected future-adapted species, such as red oak, bitternut hickory, eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, red spruce, bigtooth aspen, black cherry, black birch, and chestnut.

Researchers will continue to monitor response variables, including survival of planted seedlings, wildlife responses, carbon pools, and moisture dynamics of downed woody material.

Expected Outcomes

The ASCC project is one of the largest forest adaptation projects in North America with a primary goal of testing climate change adaptation approaches that keep forests on the landscape.

Researchers and land managers will continue to evaluate the impacts of adaptation strategies on forest productivity, wildlife populations, resilience, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity.

Research Results

Jevon, Fiona V.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Woodall, Christopher W.; Evans, Kevin; Ayres, Matthew P.; Matthes, Jaclyn Hatala. 2019. Tree basal area and conifer abundance predict soil carbon stocks and concentrations in an actively managed forest of northern New Hampshire, USA. Forest Ecology and Management. 451: 117534. 11 p. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117534.

Nagel, Linda M.; Palik, Brian J.; Battaglia, Michael A.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Guldin, James M.; Swanston, Christopher W.; Janowiak, Maria K.; Powers, Matthew P.; Joyce, Linda A.; Millar, Constance I.; Peterson, David L.; Ganio, Lisa M.; Kirschbaum, Chad; Roske, Molly R. 2017. Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change: A National Experiment in Manager-Scientist Partnerships to Apply an Adaptation Framework. Journal of Forestry. 115(3): 167-178. https://doi.org/10.5849/jof.16-039.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

Research Partners

  • Paul Schaberg, USDA Forest Service, Research Plant Physiologist
  • Dave Lutz, Dartmouth College Department of Environmental Studies, Research Assistant Professor
  • Richard Howarth, Dartmouth College Department of Environmental Studies, Professor
  • Matthew Ayres, Dartmouth College Department of Environmental Studies, Professor
  • Fiona Jevon, Dartmouth College Department of Environmental Studies, PhD student
  • Caitlin Pries, Dartmouth College Department of Biological Sciences, Assistant Professor
  • Rebecca Rowe, University of New Hampshire Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Associate Professor
  • Ryan Stephens, University of New Hampshire Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Post-doc
  • David King, USDA Forest Service, Wildlife Biologist
  • Brian Palik, USDA Forest Service, Forest Ecologist
  • Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS/UMass-Amherst, Wildlife Biologist
  • Gary Hawley, University of Vermont Rubenstein School, Research Associate
  • Eben Broadbent, University of Florida-School of Forest Resources-Assistant Professor
  • Shawn Fraver, University of Maine School of Forest Resources, Assistant Professor
  • Maria Janowiak, USDA-Forest Service, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, Deputy Director
  • Chris Swanston, USDA-Forest Service, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, Project Leader
  • Linda Nagel, Colorado State University, Dept. of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Professor
  • Peter Clark, University of Vermont Rubenstein School ,PhD student
  • Last modified: April 22, 2020