Conforgen Webinar / backcasting questionnaire

If I’d known now what I’ll know then:

Backcasting to inform forest management decisions in the face of climate change.


Although it is now virtually certain that human activities are warming the Earth’s climate, the extent of that warming is still unknown. Large confidence limits bound all projections of future climate change.  Although climate models are becoming more sophisticated, it appears that their ability to narrow these boundaries is limited. Climate change may therefore turn out to be either a minor inconvenience or a full-blown ecological and social disaster.

There is also considerable uncertainty around the adaptation pathways that will be followed by tree species and populations as a warmer future unfolds.  Efforts to adapt forests and forest management to climate change will therefore have to cope with both climatic and ecophysiological uncertainties. 

This is the challenge that foresters face when considering Forestry Assisted Migration (FAM) as a pre-emptive adaptation strategy for climate change. Although research on tree responses to climate is advancing rapidly, FAM is potentially controversial. Questions remain as to when, where and to what degree FAM will be practiced. At one end of the FAM spectrum, limited geographical movements of seed zones are already integrated into forestry practice. Under more extreme climate scenarios, would we be prepared to move species beyond their current ranges, or even plant no-analogue forest communities to cope with such futures?

On February 27th, 2013, I presented these themes in a webinar in the CONFORGEN (Conservation of forest genetic resourcesin Canada) seminar series.  In this webinar, I explored the spectrum of uncertain futures that surround climate change together with some options for FAM.  I then presented four contrasting climate futures for the year 2100, based on small or large temperature increases, and smooth versus chaotic climate transitions.

Webinar participants, together with other researchers and forestry professionals are invited to contribute their views to this backcasting exercise.  Specifically, how would you frame FAM activities if any of those speculative futures were to become our reality. Is FAM a viable management option? Are there limits to the extent to which FAM could or should be pursued in response to different climate scenarios? How does the severity and trajectory of climate change alter FAM strategies


A background document describing the future climate scenarios in detail can be found here:COFORGEN Webinar_Feb26_2013_BACKGROUND

A pdf file fo the webinar presentation can be found at:

You can also download it from the current page: If_Id_known_then_Conforgen_Feb27_2013

At the time of writing (Feb 25th, 2013) the questionnaire is still awaiting final ethics approval from the University of Winnipeg.  It will be posted as a “fillable” form as soon as this approval is received, and may also be made available as an online survey.