Adapting Forests to Climate Change

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has produced a 13-page peer-reviewed paper that outlines adaptation strategies that California land owners can take to sustain their forests' value while facing climate change impacts. The report provides specific recommendations for care of three common types of forest from across California, including: Mixed Conifer, Oak Woodlands, and Coastal Redwood Forests. The focal climate impacts addressed are Fire, Moisture Stress, and Insects and Disease, which are detailed for each forest type - along with some indicators of adaptability. 

A number of principles and strategies for adaptive management of forests are given. For example, the paper suggests reducing competition for water by thinning trees and managing for species and structural diversity. The authors suggest property owners consider the source of seedlings when planting new trees that would be more likely to thrive under the 3- to 5-degree warmer temperatures expected in 50 years or so.

The focal Principles for Managing Forests under a Changing Climate include:

  • Design and maintain your property for defensible structures and space
  • Manage forest density to reduce competition and increase resilience
  • Manage for a forest with diverse species
  • When choosing and planting long lived forest trees, consider whether seedlings will thrive under 3-5 degree F warmer temperatures in 50 years
  • Prepare for increasing flood and erosion risk from extreme precipitation events
  • Closely monitor and address the presence of native and invasive pests and diseases that may spread more aggressively in a changing climate
  • Maintain habitat for wildlife that may be stressed by a changing climate

A Self-Assessment Tool is provided in Table 2 which is designed to help the landowner assess which climate adaptation strategies may be most relevant for their property.  Questions for self-assessment are given for each climate impact, and the user is asked to consider Vulnerability, Importance, Cost to Address, and the Time frame for each of these potential impacts.


This paper is one of the UC ANR Forest Stewardship 25 Series, and was written by Adrienne Marshall, a doctoral student at the University of Idaho; Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor; Amber Kerr, postdoctoral scholar with the UC John Muir Institute of the Environment; and Peter Stine with the U.S. Forest Service.



Publication Date: April 5, 2017

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Adrienne Marshall
  • Susie Kocher
  • Amber Kerr
  • Peter Stine

Related Organizations:

  • University of California - Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Academic research paper
  • Best practice

States Affected:


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