Making woodlands more resilient

Find out what measures we can take to reduce the vulnerability of our forests to the effects of climate change

Trees that have been removed

The need for resilient woodlands

As trees take many decades to mature, foresters must anticipate much further into the future than other land-managers. Although our knowledge about the likely effects of climate change is continually improving, we cannot wait until our predictive research is perfect to develop strategies and actions that address climate change, as it never will be perfect.

We want our woodlands to be able to recover from disturbance such as a disease outbreak or fire, and tolerate disturbance without change (eg withstanding extreme weather events such as gales or flood). We also want our woodlands to be adaptive to change. This requires forest managers to take more flexible and adaptive management approaches.

Diversification

Our forests need to be resilient, resistant and adaptable if future generations are to derive the goods and services that we enjoy from our woodlands today. By focusing on actions to manage for resilient forests we will sustain the delivery of those economic, environmental and societal benefits that flow from wooded landscapes.

There are many uncertainties in the extent and range of climate change and its likely impact on trees, management systems and forest operations. A key basis for risk planning and management is diversification: from broadening the choice of genetic material, mixing tree species in stands, to varying management systems and the timing of operations.

Achieving resilience

Resilience can be a difficult concept to grasp, but for woodlands there are three key areas for action:

  1. Choose the tree species you plant wisely. Match it to your site type and the predicted climatic conditions of the future
  2. Think carefully about the silvicultural management system you employ and the infrastructure you will need to undertake it. Be prepared to adapt your plans
  3. Select the most appropriate provenance and consider the contribution that your actions have for genetic diversity and genetic conservation

How we can help

Natural Resources Wales is committed to increasing the diversity of the woodlands we manage, and encourage other woodland owners to do the same. We have developed guidance to help you with these choices and we are investing in research and development to improve our knowledge.

The Forest Research website produce a number of publications on climate change  and resilience.