Skip to main content

Adaptation pathways: ecoregion and land ownership influences on climate adaptation decision-making in forest management


Todd Ontl

Chris Swanston

Leslie Brandt

Patricia Butler

Anthony D'Amato

Stephen Handler

Maria Janowiak

Danielle Shannon

+3 more
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Climatic Change


Abstract Climate adaptation planning and implementation are likely to increase rapidly within the forest sector not only as climate continues to change but also as we intentionally learn from real-world examples. We sought to better understand how adaptation is being incorporated in land management decision-making across diverse land ownership types in the Midwest by evaluating project-level adaptation plans from a suite of forest management projects developed through the Climate Change Response Framework. We used quantitative content analysis to evaluate 44 adaptation-planning documents developed through the Framework's Adaptation Workbook within two ecoregional provinces of the Midwest. This approach was used to assess the components of adaptation planning, including the resources that adaptation actions targeted within planning documents, the climate changes and impacts of concern, and the adaptation strategies managers identified. Analyses of adaptation plans show that the most frequent climate changes and impacts of concern included alterations in the amount and timing of precipitation, increased vegetation moisture stress, and forest pest and pathogen impacts. Individual projects identified a diversity of adaptation options, rather than focusing singly on actions that aimed to resist climate impacts, enhance resilience, or transition systems. Multivariate analyses indicate that ecoregion and land ownership influenced adaptation planning, while the type of resources and the climate change impacts managers were concerned with were significantly correlated with the adaptation strategies selected during planning. This finding reinforces the idea that one-size-fits-all guidance on adaptation will be insufficient for land managers. Perceptions of relevant climate impacts differ based on regional and ownership contexts, which naturally leads to differences in preferred adaptation actions.