Neil Williams

Applied Forest Scientist

Climate change presents forest managers with some significant challenges. Climate-related impacts that are already becoming evident range from drought-induced forest mortality in some regions, to shifts in the geographic range and outbreak frequency of certain forest pests. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for addressing these impacts because forests exhibit widely varying species composition and physical structure, and management practices that are appropriate for one forest type may not be for others.

Monitoring changes in the environment and vegetation is an important component of climate-smart forest management. Forest managers must also ensure that their knowledge of projected changes in climate, and associated vegetation responses, is up to date. Together, these two steps can help build up a picture of forest vulnerability to climate change. Unfortunately, both steps may require significant time and resources, and this can act as a barrier to the adoption of proactive forest management in a changing climate. In a recently completed project funded by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Manomet sought to address this problem.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a sustainability NGO that manages a leading North American forest certification standard. In support of SFI’s role in encouraging environmentally responsible forest management practices, the organization funds research on issues such as biodiversity conservation in commercial forestry and climate change effects on commercial timberland. In collaboration with SFI, Manomet has evaluated the role that emerging large-scale datasets can play in monitoring climate change effects on commercial timberland. We then completed a detailed review of freely available online tools for remotely monitoring changes in climate and vegetation and understanding potential future changes. Finally, we used this knowledge to develop a toolkit to evaluate site-specific vulnerabilities to climate change on commercial timberland and monitor climate change effects.

Recognizing the diverse circumstances surrounding commercial forest management in North America, Manomet intentionally developed this toolkit to provide a wide spectrum of options for assessing forest vulnerabilities and monitoring climate change effects. This will allow forest managers to pick the tools that match the time and resources that they have available.

Importantly, the toolkit comes with a carefully curated list of information sources for all steps in the process of assessing vulnerability and monitoring change allowing forest managers greater access to knowledge. As part of the development process, we created case studies for forestlands managed by four companies in Manomet’s Climate Smart Land Network, each of which is taking steps to understand climate change effects on its land. The Hancock Timber Resource Group, LandVest Timberlands, Lyme Timber Company, and RMS (Resource Management Service) case studies demonstrate approaches to monitoring and understanding climate change impacts in several different regions in the U.S.

Healthy forests provide important services to society, such as carbon sequestration, air and water filtration, wildlife habitat, and others. The adoption of climate-smart practices across forests at large scales could provide significant climate benefits over the long-term. Manomet’s work with partners such as SFI helps to create and maintain healthier forests.