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100+ Participate in Forest Adaptation Tool Talk

Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Al Freeman

More than 100 members of the climate adaptation science community recently gathered via Zoom to participate  in an NE CASC virtual Tool Talk on Forest Adaptation. Held on January 24th, this event provided a forum for managers and researchers to address key challenges and successes in understanding and applying adaptation frameworks to forested areas. The discussion marked the second installment of a Tool Talk Series that NE CASC has established to help identify the common attributes of successful resource management tools and the practices used to produce them. 

“It was terrific to see such strong turnout for the second discussion in the NE CASC Tool Talk Series,” said Will Farmer, NE CASC Acting Assistant Regional Administrator. “NE CASC research arises from collaborations between scientists and managers who work together in producing actionable science. Our Tool Talk Series extends this model by incorporating a wide array of management and researcher perspectives into discussions that are designed to help identify the general practices and principles underlying development of the best resource management tools across myriad ecosystems. It is our hope that the series is beginning to deepen understanding between managers and researchers, bring novel ideas into our community, and generate new possibilities for advancing climate adaptation in the Northeast.” 

The Forest Adaptation Tool Talk featured both structured exchanges between four panelists selected for their expertise on forest adaptation issues and spontaneous exchanges in breakout groups between audience members and panelists. The panelists included: 

  • Anthony D’Amato, University of Vermont Forestry Program & NE CASC Principal Investigator
  • Samantha Myers, Forest Adaptation Specialist, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science & USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub
  • Chris Nadeau, Climate Change Adaptation Scientist, Schoodic Institute
  • Jesse Wheeler, Biologist-Vegetation Program Manager, Acadia National Park 

In addition to panelist remarks, the conversation was propelled by contributions from an audience that included representatives of more than 20 governmental agencies, 10 NGOs, and 20 universities. Collectively, participants shared their experiences using three forest adaptation frameworks: 

The Climate Change Response FrameworkThe Climate Change Response Framework seeks to mobilize co-produced approaches to forest adaptation within localized, site-specific contexts. It is defined by the following steps: a) identification of an adaptation site and adoption of a timeline for adaptation action; b) Development of researcher-manager partnerships to create adaptation strategies; c) Ecosystem vulnerability assessments; d)use of the Adaptation Workbook to formulate adaptation strategies; d) integration of monitoring to evaluate effectiveness of chosen adaptation strategies actionsis frequently used to develop co-produced approaches that facilitate partnerships between forest managers and researchers within localized, site-specific contexts. 

The RAD (Resist-Adapt-Direct)  and RRT (Resistance-Resilience-Transition FrameworksThese decision-making tools help resource managers devise informed strategies for responding to ecological disruptions resulting from climate change. Each of these frameworks identifies three categories of management responses to these disruptions. They are defined as follows:


  • Resist: Management maintains ecosystem structure and function at current or historical levels
  • Accept: No management action is taken, allowing ecosystem structure and function to arise from ongoing transformations
  • Direct: Management actions actively steer a given ecosystem towards a definite structure and function


  • Resistance: Describes actions that prioritize buffering or protecting ecosystems from change
  • Resilience: Occurs when management promotes the ability of ecosystems to respond to and withstand disturbances
  • Transition: Involves the active accommodation of ecosystem change

Exchanges centered on the above frameworks resulted in several key conclusions regarding their application. A general consensus formed around topics such as interchangeability and consistency, urgency, information deficits, seedling shortages, and the relevance of cultural factors: 

Interchangeability and Consistency: The RAD and RRT  frameworks share several key features and can and should be integrated within the broader steps outlined by the Climate Change Response Framework. Consequently, audience members suggested that deciding between the RAD and RRT frameworks may be similar to picking an exercise routine: Understanding the precise differences between frameworks is less important than committing to one approach, measuring its effectiveness, and adapting as needed.

Urgency: The rapidity with which forest ecosystems are changing requires managers to pursue multiple goals within the RAD and RRT frameworks simultaneously. Doing so allows managers to assess the feasibility of pursuing each goal and scale up the approach that yields the best results. 

Information Deficits: Managers observed that there is little or no information about how specific strategies designed using the RAD and RRT frameworks function within specific contexts. Consequently, they are often required to adopt an experimental approach to implementing silviculture prescriptions. Fortunately, the Great Lakes and Northeast Silviculture Libraries are accumulating data to help managers evaluate and select silviculture prescriptions.

Seedling Shortage: Audience members noted that there is a shortage of climate-adapted seedlings across the region. This problem has been documented in a recent publication by Anthony D’Amato and Peter Clark on the lack of ecological diversity in nursery stocking practices. 

The Relevance of Cultural Factors:  Regardless of the framework managers use, it is important to conceive adaptation strategies as responses to ecological AND social issues. Ecological strategies must operate in concert with, rather than in contradiction to, social values associated with forests (recreation, spiritual meaning, aesthetics, etc).