Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources: Aspen in the western UP


Michigan DNR staff completed an adaptation workbook session and are considering local site conditions that might make aspen more vulnerable to climate change. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages more than 4 million acres of forestland across the state. This ownership includes a diverse array of forest types, as well as several different kinds of management areas. In the western Upper Peninsula, aspen is the most abundant forest type on state land, with almost 250,000 acres (28% of the state’s ownership in the region). For this project, DNR staff addressed local site conditions that may predispose aspen to early mortality or low productivity due to climate change, specifically in the western Upper Peninsula.

Contact: Stephen Handler


Right: Forest land ownership in Michigan's western UP. 


Project Location and Goals

On state forestland, aspen is a priority forest type for the continued production of forest products, and for valuable early-successional wildlife habitat. More specific management goals and objectives for state forestland can be found in Regional State Forest Management Plans. Specifically for this exercise, DNR staff are interested to sustain aspen on strategically selected sites that will be less vulnerable to the effects of climate change. For aspen stands that are at higher risk due to climate change, the goal was to develop silvicultural strategies to reduce vulnerability and maintain forest productivity.


Climate Change and Aspen

Staff from the Michigan DNR used the Adaptation Workbook from Forest Adaptation Resources to evaluate the potential climate change impacts for aspen in the western UP in particular. Potential climate change impacts that are of major interest include:

  • Moisture stress is anticipated to be more problematic for aspen under climate change, particularly on sites with deep, well drained soils and low moisture and nutrient-holding capacity.
  • Older stands of aspen are expected to be more vulnerable to a variety of stressors, including moisture stress, pests, and disease. 
  • Altered disturbance regimes under climate change may provide more opportunities for natural aspen regeneration, if wind events and fire become more common.

Adaptation Actions

DNR staff were able to identify several potential actions that could help aspen stands adapt to changing conditions, many of which are already standard practice. Examples include:


Project Outcomes

Michigan DNR staff  completed the Adaptation Workbook activity at the Forest Adaptation Planning and Practices training in February 2014. This information will be incorporated into on-going discussions and further analysis.  


Last updated: 4/22/2014