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The following framework provides forest and woodland managers with a step-by-step approach to tackling the impacts of climate change and increasing resilience through adaptation.
The framework can be integrated into ongoing management planning.
Active management of forests and woodland is critical for increasing resilience, and can range from implementing adaptation measures through to regular monitoring and evaluation. As the climate is changing rapidly it is important that management activity is not just reactive, (e.g. felling in response to statutory tree health notices), but anticipates future change and adopts measures that are likely to reduce impact.
Given the complex nature of forestry including multiple management objectives and different soil types, local climate and site characteristics, there is no single formula to follow when considering climate change adaptation.
Instead, owners and managers need to think through their own individual objectives, survey their site and use decision making tools to select the most appropriate measures accordingly.
This is where the 5-step adaptation framework comes in. Click through each step below for guidance.
If yes, proceed to step 1. If no, create a woodland management plan then proceed to step 2.
Forest management is important to ensure continuity of objectives. More forest and woodland management plans are starting to include adaptation measures to manage risks associated with the changing climate.
Review the woodland management plan and check to what extent the changing climate has been considered under the overarching objectives of sustainable forest management, as defined in the UKFS. Update as necessary.
Identify risks and opportunities from climate change factors in the area. Assessing the vulnerability of the area will involve a review of the main present and future risks and whether they are acceptable or not. This requires consideration of both average changes in climate over time and likely changes in the frequency and severity of extreme events, before deciding if action is necessary.
The main likely changes in the UK climate and possible risks and opportunities for forests and woodlands are detailed on our risks page. Also see our resources page for details of decision support tools that use Met Office projections to assess localised climate changes.
If action is required, identify and select appropriate adaptation measures. This requires careful consideration of measures that could reduce the risk of decreasing yields, tree mortality, habitat loss, etc., or could increase the multiple benefits of woodland as they change over time.
See the ‘Possible adaptation measures for selected climate change risks’ table on the adaptation measures page, that shows measures that are likely to decrease risk if applied appropriately.
Schedule and implement adaptation measures at the appropriate time. Particular triggers for implementing adaptation measures will be where expected future impacts (e.g. reduction in growth rate or loss of tree species) exceed acceptable limits, but as climate change accelerates, so will the need to implement measures further in advance to increase resilience.
Monitoring and assessment completes one cycle of the framework, which should lead back to a review and reassessment of the necessary actions. Monitoring should be long-term as there may be long lags between applying measures and observing the effects.
Careful record keeping is therefore an important component of the process, ideally via the forest or woodland management plan or a simple diary. Records can include planting stock, planting dates, density and techniques of planting, protection provided, beat-up rates, amount and species of natural regeneration, unusual weather events before or after planting etc.
A woodland management plan provides a structured way for land managers to ensure their woodland is sustainably managed to a common industry standard. It is a requirement of the UKFS (UK Forestry Standard) that a management plan is in place. In addition, a plan needs to be in place to apply for local felling licences and to apply for grants from the forestry authorities.
While a forest management plan is a UKFS requirement, we understand there may not always be a woodland management plan in place for smaller woodlands. The myForest online platform, managed by the Sylva Foundation, enables woodland owners or agents to register for free and map and manage their woodlands. It also enables you to create woodland management plans using Scottish Forestry and Forestry Commission templates.
If a woodland management plan isn’t yet in place, the 5-step adaptation framework can still be largely followed, if a more informal plan is created to capture, for example, structure and composition of the woodland, risks and issues and management objectives e.g. conservation, biodiversity, timber production etc.
The UKFS Practice Guide ‘Adapting forest and woodland management to the changing climate’ guides practitioners through the process from assessing climate change risks to implementing adaptation measures.
Printed copies are available to purchase from Forest Research.
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