Implementing climate adaptive silviculture scenarios in the Forest Vegetation Simulator

If you follow the latest research in forestry, it’s hard not to come across studies relating to adaptive silvicultureIn a nutshell, adaptive silviculture is “designed to specifically address climate change impacts and vulnerabilities to meet management goals and objectives.”

If you’ve ever been on a field tour of a forest that has recently seen a timber harvest and has undergone an adaptive silviculture treatment, you were likely impressed with the complex spatial distribution of residual trees following the harvest. These treatments create gaps between a quarter acre and a few acres in size, leave behind reserve areas where no trees are harvested, or incorporate thinning prescriptions in the “matrix”. All in a single stand, the spatial diversity of these stands can be incredible.

Stands that are managed for climate change can look complex, and so can quantifying their future structure. Most of our growth and yield models were designed to handle relatively simple forest management scenarios such as clearcuts, thinnings, and shelterwood treatments. Simulating stands that are managed under an adaptive silviculture framework can be accomplished with some growth and yield models, but not without careful tinkering.

This post will step through a tutorial using the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS), a widely used individual tree model that uses lists of trees (e.g., species and tree diameter) to forecast forest growth through time. The FVS model can simulate forest management activities, disturbances, and provide forest carbon and harvested wood products reports. A series of 22 different model variants provide regional differences in forest growth patterns. This analysis will simulate stands under an adaptive silviculture for climate change approach.