Socio-ecological adaptation to climate change in temperate forests

Authors: Alexandra Paige Fischer*, School for Environment and Sustainability
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Global Change
Keywords: Climate change, social-ecological systems, adaptation, forests
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As climate change increasingly stresses temperate forests through droughts, wildfires, pest and disease outbreaks, and storms, a scholarship is emerging on forest vulnerability and adaptation, largely directed at institutional land managers. However, little is known about the implications of climate change for individual forest owners, who manage and depend on large extents of land in many temperate forest countries. How will climate change affect these owners and their families? How will they adapt? How will their management responses interact with climate impacts to shape future forest conditions? We investigated these questions through quantitative analysis of survey data from a random sample of forestland owners across a socio-ecological gradient in the Upper Midwest, USA. We found that forest owners undertook a number of planned and proactive management responses to climate change, such removing species that are vulnerable to climate stressors and introducing more robust species, which, in aggregation, could shape forest structure and processes into the future. We also found that their responses were a function of social and psychological factors as well as spatial and temporal features of the climate stressors themselves. We discuss the potential synergistic effects of climate change and human adaptation behavior on forests, and how, in some cases, owners’ management responses may ameliorate climate impacts, while in other cases, their responses may exacerbate stress, with outcomes for the well-being of forest owners, the viability of the family forest sector, and the health of temperate forest ecosystems.

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