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Climate-Adaptive Population Supplementation (CAPS) Workshop


  • Date: August 8, 2022

  • Hosted by NE CASC at the Old Chapel, UMass Amherst 

  • CAPS Team: Peter McIntyre (Cornell), Keith Nislow (USFS, UMass), Anthony D’Amato (UVM), Peter Clark (UVM), Thomas Detmer (Cornell), Amy Teffer (UMass)

In August 2022, the Climate-Adaptive Population Supplementation project team convened 35 practitioners of population supplementation (stocking, planting, etc.) from New England and beyond (e.g., MA, VT, NY, ME, ID) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to discuss how trait diversity within species could contribute to managing priority populations under the challenges of climate change. The expertise of attendees spanned aquatic, terrestrial, and marine coastal fauna and flora. Agency representation included federal (US Environmental Protection Agency, USGS Great Lakes Research Center, USGS Cooperative Units, USGS Conte Lab, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, National Parks Service) and state (Mass Audubon, NY Dept of Environmental Conservation, VT Forest Parks and Recreation, NY State Parks and Historic Sites) levels, academic institutions (UMass Amherst, Cornell, Mount Holyoke College, UMaine, Northeastern), and private (Riverence) and nonprofit (Native Plant Trust) sectors. 

The primary goal of the workshop was to co-develop the concept of Climate-Adaptive Population Supplementation (CAPS), which aligns climate-associated traits - like thermal or drought tolerance - of propagated species with the environmental conditions that they are expected to experience in the future. By recognizing the pre-existing intra-specific variation in climate resilience among different strains or cultivars of species that are routinely planted and stocked across the US, the CAPS concept seeks to maximize the viability and productivity of these managed populations. The result would be more cost-effective population supplementation and more robust populations of these valued species.

Prior to the workshop, the project team conducted one-on-one interviews with all confirmed participants to 1) orient attendees to the CAPS concept and clarify areas of confusion, 2) gauge attendee perspectives on supplementation as a management tool in an individual context, and 3) discuss candidly the appeal, barriers, and benefits associated with adopting a CAPS approach. This exchange prepared participants to make the most of the one-day workshop, and the resulting information was used to structure the workshop according to the expertise, directives, and concerns of participants. This footing helped to effectively refine and co-develop the CAPS concept and the methods of its application. 

The workshop facilitated breakout groups of both shared and diverse taxonomic expertise and management spheres, collaboratively discussing how climate change has been incorporated into supplementation practices and brainstorming the means through which a CAPS approach could aid in managing shifting landscapes. Collectively, workshop participants produced a set of recommendations and best practices to inform practitioners who wish to use supplementation (stocking, planting, etc.) to bolster populations against the effect of climate change.  Key considerations included when and where CAPS is an appropriate tool to meet management objectives and how to evaluate ecological risks and logistical constraints for population managers. 

Outline and Proceedings


  • Land Acknowledgement, and roundtable introductions (by Will Farmer, Jon Woodruff, Peter McIntyre)

  • Presentation: What is CAPS and how do we imagine it being implemented?

  • Live poll: Appeal of CAPS

Session 1: Appeal & Benefits of CAPS

  • Goals: Discuss individual perceptions and attitudes toward the CAPS concept following pre-workshop interviews as a primer for discussing CAPS barriers and implementation.

  • Synthesis of poll responses: Attendees held primarily terrestrial and freshwater expertise with some focused on coastal and marine restoration of both harvested and non-harvested species. Climate change and at least one of the core elements of CAPS were found to be incorporated into supplementation efforts of affiliations for most participants. "Making populations more self-sustaining" and "adapting to climate change" were found to be of the greatest importance to participants in terms of CAPS benefits, but there was greater variance among participants in the importance of lower-ranked benefits.

  • Breakout group discussion: How does CAPS differ from your current practices? How could this concept contribute to your mission? Groups were made up of individuals with a mix of taxonomic expertise. 

    • Report back summary: Many organizations and agencies are already incorporating climate change into the development of management plans and utilizing one or more of the components of the CAPS concept (e.g., assisted migration, trait profiling, portfolio theory, environmental monitoring), but not in a way that integrates all of these concepts. Attendees worked during this session to clarify how CAPS is unique from any individual concept currently employed and identifies value associated with its application within their sphere of work.

  • Live Poll: Barriers to CAPS implementation

Session 2: Barriers to CAPS Implementation 

  • Goals: Identify key barriers to the implementation of the CAPS concept across taxonomic and agency perspectives. 

  • Synthesis of poll responses: Attendees were asked to rank barriers to CAPS implementation from low (1) to high (5) importance, which showed that funding constraints weighed most heavily in decision-making as well as policy hurdles and outcome uncertainty. Although public opinion ranked low in importance overall, this and strain sourcing were ranked most variably in relative importance among the attendees

  • Breakout group discussion: Looking backward, why hasn’t climate change informed current practices? Looking forward, what might limit uptake of CAPS? Groups were composed of attendees with shared taxonomic expertise.
    • Report back summary: During this session, attendees worked in groups with shared taxonomic expertise to identify specific barriers to CAPS integration into management plans. Barriers were found to vary across taxonomic realms (e.g., diversity in strain selection for propagation is more of an issue for some taxa than others). Discussions centered on perceptions of CAPS and how this concept should be framed to enhance the uptake by decision makers (e.g., public, policy, agency leadership); again, perceptions and framing varied across taxonomic lines. 
    • Live Poll: What would application look like?

Session 3: Co-developing a How-To Guide for CAPS Application 

  • Goals: Co-develop a roadmap to CAPS implementation, identifying key considerations for application, monitoring, assessment, and management adaptation. Collaboratively integrate ideas and concepts across taxonomic and managerial perspectives to generate a broadly applicable conceptualization of CAPS as a How-To Guide.
  • Synthesis of poll responses: Workshop leaders asked attendees to consider how they would relay the core components of CAPS (trait profiling, measuring performance, strain portfolio design) to a colleague. This word cloud demonstrates the shared and divergent perspectives relevant to the design of a robust strain portfolio. 

  • Iterative Jamboard groups: Organizers facilitated Jamboard sessions, starting in four small groups, then merged to two groups, and then merged again. This process integrated attendee ideas more comprehensively and inclusively, found cohesion among points, and streamlined take-home messages. This session reconvened the groups from Session 1 to include multi-taxa perspectives.
    • Report back summary: Participants and organizers were able to co-develop a conceptual diagram that outlines the process of CAPS suitability, application, and refinement across taxonomic and management spheres. By iteratively merging groups, our group integrated more voices into the discussion and brainstorming process, culminating in a truly co-developed CAPS conceptual diagram. This image and text will form the basis of a How-To Guide for managers and practitioners of population supplementation that will be promoted and shared within and beyond the NE CASC network. 
  • Closing Remarks and Appreciation (see Conclusions below)
    • The CAPS project team will continue to refine the CAPS concept using results from paired fish and forest experiments (in progress) and by reaching out to attendees and their networks. Specifically, team members will tap these networks to identify who, where, and how the CAPS approach has been applied, how it has been successful, where it is lacking, and how practitioners have adapted to the challenges of a shifting mindset and enhanced intention that comes with adopting the CAPS approach. 
    • The CAPS team is grateful to the participants and staff who helped structure, plan, and execute this workshop, kindly lending their time and expertise toward this effort. 


The key findings of the CAPS workshop and take-home messages included:

  • CAPS is not revolutionary. Rather, CAPS unifies existing concepts and practices, such as assisted migration, evolutionary rescue, trait diversity, and portfolio theory, to enhance success in meeting existing management objectives. 
  • CAPS increases the INTENTION behind supplementation efforts, meeting the challenges of climate change and shifting environments head-on. 
  • CAPS is one of several key concepts that must be integrated within management plans, which should be evaluated for applicability in the context of specific goals, associated risks, and other cofactors.
  • CAPS is a multi-step process:
    • Within-Species Trait Profiling: Identify species of interest and variation in climate-relevant traits among strains
    • Environment Profiling: Identify climate-relevant environmental stressors affecting the species as well as spatial and temporal scope of interest
    • Performance Testing: Place the available set of strains/cultivars into environments that capture the range of climate conditions identified in Step 2 and compare predefined metrics of success.

Portfolio Design: Capture broad resilience to relevant climate stressors by using multiple strains per species, thereby accounting for uncertainty by hedging bets.


  • In one day, organizers and attendees worked together, spanning disciplines and management mandates, to find a path forward in an uncertain future, co-developing a strategy that is not revolutionary, but rather a thoughtful integration of existing concepts and tools in conservation. 
  • Foundations were laid for a community of practice around the CAPS concept. Participants left feeling energized to apply the concepts and learn from each other around successes and challenges.

Next steps

  • Participants and CAPS team members are now in the process of writing two publications: the first is a policy-oriented essay focused on the CAPS concept, and the second is a How-To Guide for managers and practitioners that lays out the co-developed guidelines on effective uptake and application across applications across taxonomic and managerial spheres. NE CASC will promote and share these publications through listservs, media, and social networks including press releases and synopsis reports. This will include a 2-page summary document that visualizes the CAPS concept and its development, highlighting the contributions and applications across organizations, management mandates, and taxonomic focus. 
  • In the near future, two NE CASC-funded postdocs will lead parallel projects testing the efficacy of the CAPS approach for both fish and urban trees, which will produce results upon which guidelines laid out in the How-To Guide and Policy Forum piece can be refined.
  • Due to the timing of this event and logistical issues, the workshop lacked Tribal representation, which is a critical limitation. This gap in expertise and knowledge will be addressed by bringing the CAPS concept to Tribal Nations as a work in progress, unfinished without Tribal perspective integrated into its core. The CAPS team hopes to achieve this goal by visiting Tribal communities to listen to and integrate their concerns and suggestions relevant to supplementation practices on Tribal lands. 
  • As results come in from the new, ongoing NE CASC-funded CAPS pilot projects on brook trout and urban trees, the CAPS team will organize symposia at professional society meetings to continue spreading the word about both the concept and its demonstrable outcomes. Team members will organize a series of webinars designed for federal, tribal, state, and non-profit organizations to ensure that we can assist with creative problem-solving as others seek to integrate CAPS into their priorities and activities.

Future directions

  • It would benefit the continued refinement and dissemination of the CAPS concept to have a centralized repository for data and associated products (e.g., manuscripts, reports) stemming from the utilization of a CAPS approach. Additionally, maintaining the network and relationships established by this workshop and its preparations is crucial to build community around this concept and strengthen connections with partner organizations and practitioners. 
  • Population supplementation is already changing, and this can be done in two ways: directly or indirectly. Direct efforts would adopt an approach that puts intention and climate knowledge behind efforts. Conversely, indirect responses to population supplementation failures would necessitate frantic shifts in tactics to haphazardly incorporate aspects of climate change science and likely miss potential management opportunities. NE CASC can support continuation of the CAPS conversation and data sharing, where we can demonstrate where and how success happens and identify why failures occur as a means to improve decision making processes. 
  • CAPS puts intention behind the commonly utilized practice of population supplementation by considering projected environmental conditions in the context of strain diversity within species and designing strain portfolios uniquely suited to changing habitats. Like any concept, CAPS is an approach that must adapt to new data and knowledge, integrating lessons learned and accounting for the complexities and contexts of unique social, ecological, economic, and cultural considerations for each project and management plan.