Effects of climate, disturbance, and management on the growth and dynamics of temperate and sub-boreal forest ecosystems within the Lake States and New England

Project Leader: 
Research Partners: 
Dr. Brian Palik (USFS Northern Research Station); Dr. John Bradford (USGS Southwest Biological Sciences Center); Dr. Andrew Finley (Michigan State University); Dr. Shawn Fraver (University of Maine); Dr. John Brissette (USFS Northern Research Station); Dr. Louis Iverson (USFS Northern Research Station); Dr. Michael Battaglia (USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station); Dr. Christopher Woodall (USFS Northern Research Station); Dr. Matthew Russell (University of Minnesota)
Project Fellows: 
Science Themes: 

This project is using tree-ring patterns and long-term data collections from natural and managed forests across the Lake States, New England, Intermountain West, and Black Hills to identify forest management strategies and forest conditions that have conferred the greatest levels of resistance and resilience to past stressors and their relevance in addressing future environmental change.  This work represents a broad partnership between scientists from the USFS Northern Research Station, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, USGS, University of MN, and University of Maine in an effort to capitalize on over 50 years of data collection on USFS Experimental Forests and Forest Inventory and Analysis plots to evaluate forest adaptation strategies.  Research sites include the Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest (EF) in Ohio, Bartlett EF in New Hampshire, Cutfoot EF in Minnesota, Argonne EF in WI, and Black Hills EF in SD.

Examinations of population-level responses to historic drought periods within red pine forests in Minnesota indicate a general increase in drought vulnerability with increasing tree density, particularly at extremely high densities. In addition, populations maintained at low tree densities, while unaffected by drought at young ages, were more susceptible to drought at older ages due to the higher physiological burden of large trees in those stands. Results suggest that thinning is a viable option for reducing drought vulnerability; however, extreme density reductions should be avoided.  

Related analyses in other mixed conifer and northern hardwood forests in the Great Lakes region indicate an additional benefit from maintaining a diversity of tree sizes within a population to minimize drought impacts.  Evaluations of the importance of drought as a driver of growth patterns in these populations indicate that conifer-dominated forest systems in both Lake States and Northeastern States are more sensitive to historic drought than northern hardwood dominated forests in these regions.  Results from ponderosa pine-dominated systems in South Dakota and Arizona suggest a similar importance of forest density in determining population-level sensitivity to drought with universal relationships between relative density and drought vulnerability across populations.  

In addition to examining thinning impacts on drought vulnerability, we have also capitalized on long-term prescribed burning studies to determine the impacts of this common habitat management practice on drought resistance and resilience.  Findings from this work indicate that prescribed burning has an initial negative effect on the ability of trees to resist drought effects, but neutral to positive long-term impacts due to reductions in understory trees and shrubs and concomitantly greater levels of moisture availability.  

Inherent in each of these long-term evaluations has been a dynamic shift over time regarding the vulnerability of given managed populations to drought effects, underscoring the importance of anticipating long-term feedbacks between otogenetic changes in habitat characteristics and climate.  In addition, drought impacts have been highly dependent on tree population densities across the broad geography of areas examined (AZ, SD, ME, NH, MN, WI, OH) highlighting the importance of accounting for population structure when predicting future climate response of a given tree species or forest habitat type. 

We co-designed two, large-scale (200 ha) Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) installations in Minnesota and New Hampshire, respectively.  Project development was facilitated by Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science cooperators and experimental treatments associated with resistance, resilience, and transition in relation to climate change and forest health threats co-developed with natural resource managers from the Chippewa National Forest, White Mountain National Forest, NH Fish and Game, and VT Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

  • D’Amato, A.W.  2012. Looking back to inform the future: retrospective assessments of forest adaptation and mitigation strategies.  Invited Webinar as part of Northeast Climate Science Center Colloquium, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.  February 15.
  • Bradford, J., A.W. D'Amato, G. Domke, J.R. Foster, N.R. Jensen, and E. Peters.  2012. Adaptation and mitigation strategies on the Superior National Forest in response to climate change: monitoring, assessing, and forecasting. Invited presentation at Superior National Forest Research Roundup, Duluth, MN. February 22.
  • Foster, J.R., A.W. D’Amato, and J.B. Bradford.  2012.  Long-term tree and stand biomass increment patterns derived from tree rings in multiple temperate and sub-boreal forest systems in northeastern Minnesota, USA. Seminar at 97th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Portland, OR.  August 9.
  • D’Amato, A.W.  2013. Adaptive silviculture and site level considerations for northern hardwoods.  2013.  Invited presentation at the 2013 Wisconsin Society of American Foresters State Conference, Minocqua, WI. September 17.                                  
  • McKenzie, D.A., A.W. D’Amato, B.J. Palik, S. Fraver, J. B. Bradford, and J.C. Brissette. 2013. Long-term silviculture experiments impact stand-level weather sensitivity, resistance, and resilience. Presentation at 98th Annual Meeting Ecological Society of America. Minneapolis, MN. August 4-9, 2013.         
  • Foster, J.R., A.W. D’Amato, and J.B. Bradford.  2013. Characterizing the differential sensitivity of tree species and forest types to past weather variability using dendrochronological techniques. Presentation at 98th Annual Meeting Ecological Society of America. Minneapolis, MN. August 4-9, 2013.        
  • Foster, J.R., D'Amato, A.W., Bradford, J.B.  2013. Sensitivity of tree, species and stand biomass growth to summer water deficits from tree-ring reconstructions in northern Minnesota. Presentation at 9th North American Forest Ecology Workshop, Bloomington, IN. June 17-20, 2013.
  • D'Amato, A.W. 2014. Climate-Informed Forest Management Forum and Field Day.  Grand Rapids and Chippewa National Forest, MN. May 8.   
  • Bottero, A., J.B. Bradford, A.W. D'Amato, S. Fraver, and B.J. Palik.  2014.  Forest thinning alters drought vulnerability in temperate North American forests.  Society of American Foresters National Convention, Salt Lake City, UT.  October 10.        
  • Bottero, A.  2015. Long-term effects of repeated prescribed burning on tree growth and drought vulnerability in red pine forests in northern Minnesotaa.  Lake States Fire Consortium Webinar Series. February 19.  
  • D'Amato, A.W. 2015. Something old, something new: sivilcultural strategies for addressing climate change. New England Society of American Foresters 95th Winter Meeting. Fairlee, VT. March 26.
  • Palik, B.J., L. Nagel, A.W. D'Amato, and C. Kern.  2015. Adaptive sivilculture for climate chante in Pinus resinosa (red pine) forests. North American Forest Ecology Workshop, Veracruz, Mexico. June 18.
  • Bottero A., A.W. D’Amato, B.J. Palik, J.B. Bradford, S. Fraver.  2015. Thinning reduces vulnerability of forest ecosystems to drought.  Italian Congress on Silviculture, Florence, Italy. September 15.
  • J. Foster, A. D'Amato, February 2016 "Forecasting Potential Climate Refugia to Guide Conservation of Montane Species" Northeast Climate Science Center Webinar
  • D'Amato.  2016. Forecasting potential climate change refugia to guide conservation of montane species.101st Ecological Society of America Meeting, Fort Lauderdale, FL. August 7-12.
  • Curzon, M.T., A.W. D'Amato, J.R. Foster, B.J. Palik, S. Fraver, J.B. Bradford, A. Bottero, and K.E. Gleason. 2016. Forest structure and management influence trait-based growth in northern forests across the northeastern United States. 101st Ecological Society of America Meeting, Fort Lauderdale, FL. August 7-12 Foster, J.R., and A.W.
  • D'Amato, A.W. 2017. Strategies for managing forests to increase drought tolerance. New England Society of American Forests Winter Meeting, Bangor, ME, March 8. 
  • D'Amato, A.W. 2017. Strategies for managing forests to increase drought tolerance. National Drought Meeting, San Antonio, TX. March 22. 


  • D’Amato, A.W.  2017. Silviculture in the face of uncertainty: is the past still relevant? Invited Keynote Presentation.  11th North American Forest Ecology Workshop, Edmonton, Alberta. June 20.
  • Palik, B.J., A.W. D’Amato, L. Nagel, and J. Mueller.  2017. Transitioning red pine forests to a warmer, drier future: assisting replacement of an iconic species.  Presentation. 11th North American Forest Ecology Workshop, Edmonton, Alberta. June 22.
  • Foster, J.R., and A.W. D’Amato.  2017. Forecasting migration rates of montane species under climate change with a spatially dynamic vegetation model.  Presentation. 11th North American Forest Ecology Workshop, Edmonton, Alberta. June 22. 
  • Meeting: western LCCs within Northeast CSC, Madison, WI, May 23, 2012
  • Meeting: Northeast Climate Science Center Outreach and Science Planning, Minneapolis, MN, January 17-18, 2013
  • Meeting: Climate-Informed Forest Management Forum and Field Day.  Grand Rapids and Chippewa National Forest, MN, May 7-8, 2014
  • Grant: Modeling the effects of climate change on spruce-fir forest ecosystems and associated priority bird populations.  Northeast Climate Science Center, USGS. ($200,000)
  • Grant: Developing historically-consistent and broadly-applicable monitoring, reporting, and verification system for quantifying forest change.  USFS Northern Research Station/NASA ($73,881).