Foundational Forests IV: All Forests are Experimental

Above is a sample of British Columbia’s Forest service’s Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification (BEC) maps, which delineate Canada’s forest types and their geo-spatial patterns.   The incredibly detailed classifications are based on field surveys of assemblies of vegetation, assemblies which are expected to shift in tandem with accelerated climate change.  As they do, these maps will shift in application, serving as comparative benchmarks to see how these forests whither, migrate or morph in composition.]

The map above pinpoints current implementation sites of the Assisted Migration Adaptation Trial for forests.  Specific to trees, assisted migration can be defined as “the purposeful movement of species to facilitate or mimic natural [italics added] population or range expansion to help ensure forest plantations remain resilient in future climates.”   The adaptation trial is extensive: “Some 48 test sites stretch from the Yukon to southern Oregon, with nine in the United States and the rest in Canada.”  The predicted rate of climate change is rapid enough that foresters – a breed of farmers producing crops that take decades to nearly a century to yield, are anticipating that they need to sow for conditions that don’t yet exist where they are:  “Foresters are no longer planting just for today’s climate…they’re planting for the climate 60 to 80 years from now that is expected to be three to four degrees warmer.”

Enveloped in the hyperobject (or hyperbody) of climate change, all forests appear to be traversing accelerated trajectories of change, never mind the thick background of miscellaneous anthro-aggregated factors, like fire suppression, urbanization and a global reordering of species that has already happened.  Those torturous native vs. exotic debates become further aggravated or go right out the window in these scenarios (or rather natives slip out the back door and become requisite migrants).  And while scientists and technical experts are boxing through the theoretical entropy of these novel co-evolutions, citizens and grass-roots organizations are coming out of the woodwork (apologies) and asserting their own do-it-yourself agency in willfully migrating landscapes:

[Guerrilla gardening meets climate change adaptation in a nurtured field of Torreya taxifolia seedlings in the highlands of North Carolina, cared for by the Torreya Guardians]

Early this year, the USDA updated its plant hardiness maps to reflect changes in climate (the new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the 1990 version throughout much of the United States). We assume this also implies that the USDA’s Forest Service manages many more than 80 experimental forests.

(Of related interest: “First the Forest” exhibition at CCA, curated by Dan Handel:  “Reframing forestry as an activity that creates highly designed environments with unprecedented scale, ambition and precision, the exhibition proposes an expanded understanding of the connections between natural resources, production processes, and designed form.”)

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