Plantation Forests and Climate Change

Climate, Forests and Woodlands October 20, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Written by Amy Grotta, University of Oregon


Plantation forests are a type of managed forest in which the trees are planted (as opposed to naturally regenerated), of the same age and generally of the same species, and are intended to maximize the production of wood fiber. Trees in a plantation forest are usually planted uniformly in rows to maximize the site’s growing space and resources, to ensure uniform growth, and to facilitate the use of mechanized harvesting equipment.

Figure 1. A hybrid poplar plantation in the Columbia River valley. Photo by Terry Bain.

Climate change may have several management implications that are specific to plantation forests. Because plantations by definition do not rely on natural regeneration, the seed source for new rotations can be tailored to fit an altered climate regime. Also, since plantations are typically grown on a short rotation relative to other managed forests, managers will have more frequent opportunities to alter the seed source, provenance, or species in response to changing climatic conditions. On the other hand, some plantations rely on irrigation, especially those in regions that do not naturally support forests. As the climate changes in these areas, the pressure for water use may become exacerbated, potentially impacting the economic viability and social acceptance of these plantations.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.