Identifying trade‐offs and opportunities for forest carbon and wildlife using a climate change adaptation lens
On a warming planet, a key challenge natural resource managers face is protecting wildlife while mitigating climate change—as through forest carbon storage—to the greatest extent possible. But in some ecosystems, habitat restoration for imperiled species may be incompatible with maximizing carbon storage. For example, promoting early successional forest conditions does not maximize stand-level carbon storage, whereas uniformly promoting high stocking or mature forest conditions in the name of carbon storage excludes species that require open or young stands. Here, we briefly review the literature regarding carbon and wildlife trade-offs and then explore four case studies from the Northern Forest region of the United States. In each case, human activities have largely dampened the influence of natural disturbances; restoring or emulating these disturbances is typically required for habitat restoration even when doing so equates to less carbon storage at the stand level. We propose that applying a climate adaptation lens can help managers and planners navigate these trade-offs and steer away from maladaptive practices that may ultimately reduce adaptive capacity. Instead, critically evaluating the consequences of stand-level management actions on both carbon and wildlife can then facilitate landscape-scale climate adaptation planning that supports a diversity of habitats alongside opportunities to invest in maximizing forest carbon.