Michigan State University, Michigan, United States
Background/Question/Methods Increasing human population, material use, and land management activity has negatively influenced global climate, ecosystems, and well-being of other species. This has led society to search for solutions to these unprecedented challenges in policy, technology, science, and nature. Despite being linked to climate change mitigation for decades, forests have recently become elevated in climate change dialogues because of their framing as a Natural Climate Solution (NCS). In turn, the phrase Climate-Smart Forestry (CSF) has become common vernacular in myriad disciplines and decision-making circles espousing the linkage between forests and climate. Despite the prevalence of CSF, preliminary research finds inconsistent interpretations and confidence in what it represents. Adding further confusion, it remains unclear how existing guidance on sustainable forest management (SFM) relates to CSF principles, particularly alongside parallel climate mitigation efforts like restoration and avoiding conversion. This research assesses how CSF might be deployed at a landscape scale by exploring current CSF concepts before presenting a broadened definition to engage multiple scales of decision-makers and intervention types.
Results/Conclusions CSF presents an opportunity to consider the role of forests at the stand and landscape scales, with differing objectives, indicators, and tradeoffs. Much of the current literature frames CSF as a subset of forest management, but this work contends that CSF can also inform landscape restoration and avoiding conversion of forests to non-forest. With this framing, multiple disciplines (e.g., forestry, planning, timber production, conservation, natural resource management, and policymaking) have a role to play in promoting CSF as an umbrella under which to assess additional forested or potentially forested landscapes. This broader framing has implications for linking landscape ecology, identifying CSF indicators, and shaping land and resource decision-making, particularly in terms of avoiding unintended negative outcomes like degradation or further climate change contributions. With this understanding, CSF encompasses a diversity of practices and planning essential to address climate change while supporting resilient landscapes for multiple values in society and actively considering other species.