Developing management strategies for tree improvement programs under climate change: Insights gained from long-term field trials with lodgepole pine

Gray, L. K., et al., 2016. Forest Ecology and Management

Original research (primary data)
View External Publication Link


The growing concern of the impact of climate change in forestry has prompted tree improvement programs and regulatory agencies to integrate climate change adaptation in the production and use of tree seed. In support of such adaptation strategies, we conducted a case study for lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Dougl.) in Alberta, Canada. We compared the tree height for populations and families planted across 37 progeny and provenance trials when transferred among six physiogeographically and climatically distinct breeding regions. Based on these results we infer how lodgepole populations and families are adapted to current climate conditions and how they might respond to future changes in climate. Interestingly, in almost all regions we found that local populations grew better than introduced sources, suggesting that in the current climate the use of local populations is still an appropriate reforestation strategy with some exceptions. Notably, in cool and wet higher elevation environments (between 1050 and 1650 m), local populations were outgrown by populations originating from warmer lower elevation regions. Moreover, these higher elevation populations were always outgrown when transferred to other regions. A number of transfers among regions were identified that ensure productivity gains under recent climate conditions, and simultaneously represent a short term adaptation measure for warming of about +0.5 degrees C. Further, we provide a database for selection of families within breeding populations to enhance their resilience to climate change.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-155-1
  • Intervention type: Management
  • Intervention description:

    Assisted migration 29 trials (10 series) across 27 locations across 6 breeding regions + data from 6 series of provenance trials (8 trials across 8 locations). The objective of this study was to compare how local progenies faired vs introduced sources, and assess potential of assisted migration to sustain biomass productivity in the face of climate change. The authors synthesize findings from these lodgepole pine translocation experiments across alberta (boreal and sub-boreal) to assess whether assisted migration could be effective to adapt to climate change. The individual trials are not coded for as distinct locations, and in our map boreal and sub-boreal fit under the same habitat type. It was coded for as 1 intervention.

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Loss of timber production  Positive Height of populations relative to local sources when transferred among breeding regions, including the effects of transferring populations within and among breeding regions.
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    6 lodgepole pine breeding regions in Alberta, Canada

  • Country: Canada
  • Habitat/Biome type: Boreal forests and taiga |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness is based on the synthesis findings from these lodgepole pine translocation experiments across alberta (boreal and sub-boreal) to assess whether assisted migration could be effective to adapt to climate change. Based on the results of the trials the authors deduce that “transfers that entail a moderate shift in temperature, equivalent to approximately 0.5 C warming, had a uniformly positive effect”
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures: N/A
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures: N/A
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: Yes
  • Experimental evalution done: In-situ/field
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Study is systematic: