Incorporating Climate Adaptation into a Forest Management Plan: A Case Study on the Research and Teaching Forest of Michigan Technological University

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We incorporated climate adaptation into a forest management plan for Michigan Technological University's Ford Forest, a 2,000-ha property in Michigan's Upper Peninsula used for education, research, and timber revenues. Our process was an opportunity to test the existing climate adaptation literature, pulling from multiple sources to meet the diverse needs of the institution at the time the plan was created. We present outcomes as well as lessons learned summarized in a series of broad takeaway messages. (1) Climate adaptation is a means to an end. The end must be defined and is made up of critical values and an adapted state. (2) Given the instability inherent in climate change, achieving adaptation means adjusting forest attributes in response to change but also preparing for unforeseen outcomes via adaptive management. (3) Decisions surrounding goals affect the entire process. Considering climate change-driven constraints when setting goals will improve outcomes. (4) Flawed decision-making is a risk associated with certain organizational contexts and affects the identification of goals, vulnerabilities, and adaptation options. (5) Climate adaptation actions cannot be evaluated in the short term for efficacy because climate change is ongoing. However, the appropriateness of a plan in responding to anticipated change can be evaluated. Study Implications: This work informs strategic planning for climate change adaptation in forests. We created a climate-informed forest management plan using adaptation frameworks for a university-owned forest in Upper Michigan at the confluence of the northern hardwoods and boreal forest ecotypes. We offer assessment of our plan outcomes and insights into how our decision-making context affected them. This case study expands on the ongoing scientific conversation, incorporating concepts from management science, on how best to adapt natural systems to climate change to protect human values derived from ecosystem services.

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Forest Science