Adapting Sustainable Forest Management to Climate Change: A Framework for Assessing Vulnerability and Mainstreaming Adaptation into Decision Making

T.B. Williamson, M.A. Campagna, and A.E. Ogden
Posted on: 12/29/2015 - Updated on: 1/18/2019

Posted by

Tera Johnson


One of the consequences of climate change is that new kinds of information will be needed to support policy- and decision making. The vulnerability approach is an established methodology for providing information in a form that supports policy- and decision making in the context of adapting to climate change. For example, climate change is ubiquitous, so approaches to assessment are needed that simultaneously consider the breadth of impacts both on forests and on sustainable forest management objectives. In addition, the long growth cycles of trees mean that forest management is inherently a long-term undertaking. This, combined with the fact that Canada’s climate could change significantly in the next 100 years, means that a long-term view of climate change impacts is needed in order to make correct forest management decisions today. There is, however, uncertainty about future climate change impacts. Vulnerability assessments acknowledge and address uncertainty through a process of scenario construction. Typically, such a process results in multiple stories of the future, which are informed by a combination of science, modeling, and expert judgment. Climate change will have implications for the capacity of forest managers, forest management organizations, and forest management systems to adapt. Vulnerability approaches incorporate assessments of adaptive capacity. This document presents a framework for assessing the vulnerability of sustainable forest management in Canada to climate change and linking the results of vulnerability assessment to an adaptation process that is integrated into forest management decision making. The framework will enable Canadian forest managers to better understand the location, timing, and magnitude of potential climate change impacts on sustainable forest management objectives and their capacity to adapt to current and future impacts. The framework also describes a process for structured, adaptive management decision making in which information about sources of vulnerability is used to implement adaptation actions, the state of the system after adaptation is monitored, and vulnerabilities and adaptation requirements are regularly and systematically re-examined.


Williamson, T.B.; Campagna, M.A.; Ogden, A.E. 2012. Adapting sustainable forest management to climate change: a framework for assessing vulnerability and mainstreaming adaptation into decision making. Can. Counc. For. Minist., Ottawa, ON.