Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change –
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Research Issue

1/10 acre plot in March 2020 after removal of dead ash trees. Some downed wood can be seen in the foreground. Some living trees surround the plot with Crosby lake in the background.What can land managers do today to help forests adapt to changes in habitat suitability of tree species, changes in pest behavior, and shifting hydrological patterns and other stressors associated with climate change?  To answer that question, Forest Service scientists are partnering with universities and other federal, state and local agencies on the “Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change” (ASCC) Network to conduct on-the-ground, science-manager collaborative research to demonstrate what adaptation measures or tactics might be effective in preparing forest ecosystems to deal with climate change.

Our Research

Photo of a gap prior to treatment at Crosby Farm Regional Park. The understory is dominated by wood nettle with no regeneration of trees in the understory or midstory. Crosby lake can be seen in the background.The study location is Crosby Farm Regional Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which is part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA). The site is located in a floodplain forest ecosystem, dominated by an ash-elm mixed lowland hardwood forest type.  Anticipated impacts of climate change on this floodplain ecosystem include increased temperatures, especially at night, heavier rain and flooding events, increased drought stress in the summer and dramatic decreases in snow water equivalent.

During a workshop held in March 2019, scientists and collaborators met to develop a set of management objectives, desired future conditions and silvicultural tactics for each of three climate change adaptation treatments for the site.  With the “resistance” treatment the goal is to maintain relatively unchanged conditions over time.  Managing for “resilience” allows for some change in current conditions, but encourages eventual return to original conditions.  Finally, with the “transition” strategy, actions are taken to facilitate change and encourage adaptive responses.

A plot in the 'resilience' treatment as of May 25, 2020. Flags indicate spots where trees are planted, and you can see some of the trees planted as bare root saplings (3-5 feet tall). Mature trees and Crosby Lake are in the background. Treatment options vary within the adaptation approaches. In plots managed using resistance methods, efforts are directed toward the regeneration of species currently found on site, managing to decrease invasive species cover, and maintaining large diameter trees while creating a range of diameter classes for wildlife habitat.  In the resilience plots, goals include the regeneration of species observed in floodplain forests in the general region but not necessarily found currently on site, nurturing trees with vigor and seed potential, and providing wildlife trees with big crowns and cavity trees or snags for nesting wildlife species.  In the transition plots land managers work to promote a broad suite of future climate-adapted species (flood-tolerant and drought-tolerant) from seed zones farther south along the Mississippi, create a diversity of canopy cover conditions over space and time that is heterogeneous for regeneration, and promote heterogeneous age classes and canopy structure.

Expected Outcomes

Researchers and land managers will monitor and evaluate the impacts of adaptation strategies on forest productivity, wildlife populations, forest health, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity over time. This project is the first urban affiliate site in the ASCC network.  A key component of this project will be continued community engagement, with an overarching goal of creating an educated, engaged public, involved in local climate adaptation efforts.

Research Results

Hammes, Mary C.; Brandt, Leslie; Nagel, Linda; Peterson, Courtney; Windmuller-Campione, Marcella; Montgomery, Rebecca A. 2020. Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, an Urban National Park in the Twin Cities Area, Minnesota. Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 13: Iss. 1, Article 11. DOI: 10.15365/cate.2020.130111 Available at:  

Nagel, Linda M.; Palik, Brian J.; Battaglia, Michael A.; D'Amato, Anthony W.; Guldin, James M.; Swanston, Christopher W.; Janowiak, Maria K.; Powers, Matthew P.; Joyce, Linda A.; Millar, Constance I.; Peterson, David L.; Ganio, Lisa M.; Kirschbaum, Chad; Roske, Molly R. 2017. Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change: A National Experiment in Manager-Scientist Partnerships to Apply an Adaptation Framework. Journal of Forestry. 115(3): 167-178.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

Research Partners

This work was made possible by funds from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund and a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant. 

  • Last modified: May 29, 2020