Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for Forest Management: The Case of the U.S. Forest Service

Thomas J. Timberlake, Courtney A. Schultz
2019 Forests  
Forest managers need access to targeted scientific information about the impacts of climate change in order to adapt to climate change. Vulnerability assessments address this need and are common across a range of disciplines and geographies; however, the practice of vulnerability assessment has revealed challenges that warrant further examination in a specific context. The U.S. Forest Service, a national forest-management agency in charge of 78 million hectares, has developed a collection of
more » ... a collection of climate change vulnerability assessments to support adaptation by forest managers. We conducted a qualitative document analysis, informed by a series of research interviews with scientists, of 44 vulnerability assessments developed for the U.S. Forest Service. We found that partnerships between research scientists and land managers were central to the development of vulnerability assessments in the U.S. Forest Service. Assessment processes vary across settings. As the practice has developed, vulnerability assessments increasingly cover larger spatial extents and a broader range of resources associated with forest management. We identified ways in which vulnerability assessments can support decision-making, including approaches already in use and opportunities to improve practice. In particular, we discuss how vulnerability assessments are well-positioned to support the development of land-management plans, which set strategic management direction for periods of at least a decade. This paper provides baseline knowledge on a fundamental aspect of a large national forestry agency's climate change adaptation strategy, with many findings transferable to the study of other forest-management organizations.
doi:10.3390/f10111030 fatcat:wpgzn7moezhsbhlyqpr5ztd5xq