Climate Change Adaptation Strategies

Trees are less healthy and productive when they are planted in a climate that is different from that of their recent ancestors. Climate is currently changing fast, and tree populations cannot naturally migrate to new areas or adapt through natural selection at an equal pace. So, forest trees may become maladapted as the climate changes.

As many forest tree species play a key role in their ecosystem, there could well be negative downstream impacts on dependent organisms and on ecosystem function. We need adaptation strategies, like species diversification or assisted migration, to manage B.C.’s forest stands and landscapes in a changing climate.

Species Diversification

It isn’t certain exactly how climate will change, or by how much. However, increasing species diversity in forest management may help buffer the negative impacts of climate change, and make forests more resilient when faced with extreme weather events.

For example, regenerating a stand or landscape with a range of species that are ecologically-suitable for a site may

  • Help reduce potential losses due to forest health and other climate-related agents, and
  • Mitigate some of the uncertainty in determining which species in a stand will perform well over the rotation.

Read the Chief Forester's Memo on Stand and Landscape Level Species Composition (PDF)

Assisted Migration

Assisted migration refers to moving seed sources beyond their current climates. Generally, seed sources are moved north, and to higher elevations in a way that mimics

  • Recent observed climate change and
  • Expected shifts in climate over the next few decades.

Planting seed sources and species that are adapted to current and future climates exploits finely tuned plant-climate adaptations that have arisen through millennia of natural selection to help maintain forest health and productivity.

Two interim assisted migration measures have been implemented:

Climate Change Adaptation Initiative

The Climate-Based Seed Transfer Project is underway. Over the next five to ten years it will transition British Columbia’s seed transfer system to a climate-based science, policy and decision support framework. In the future, the new seed transfer system will link with ecologically suitable species information to support tree species selection decisions.

Further Resources About Assisted Migration