Climate Change Adaptation Strategies

As climate changes around the world, trees are now growing in ecological conditions that are different from those in which their ancestors grew. Populations cannot keep pace and migrate naturally to new areas or adapt through natural selection, so some forest trees may become maladapted.

Forest tree species often play a key role in their ecosystem. When maladapted, the rest of the ecosystem and other, dependent organisms (such as insects, birds and plant life dependent on trees, like lichens) are also affected. The province has developed adaptation strategies, like species diversification and assisted migration, to manage this.

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 caused by climate change.

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. Upper elevation transfer limits were increased for most species:

Climate Change Adaptation Initiative

British Columbia’s seed transfer system is transitioning to a climate-based science, policy and decision support framework. The new seed transfer system will link with ecologically suitable species information to support tree species selection decisions.

Further Resources About Assisted Migration