Are secondary forests ready for climate change? It depends on magnitude of climate change, landscape diversity and ecosystem legacies

Lee E. Frelich, Kalev Jogiste, John Stanturf, Aris Jansons, Floortje Vodde

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In this review and synthesis paper, we review the resilience of secondary forests to climate change through the lenses of ecosystem legacies and landscape diversity. Ecosystem legacy of secondary forests was categorized as continuous forest, non-continuous forest, reassembled after conversion to other land uses, and novel reassembled forests of non-native species. Landscape diversity, including landforms that create varied local climatic and soil conditions, can buffer changing climate to some extent by allowing species from warmer climates to exist on warm microsites, while also providing refugial locations for species that grow in cool climates. We present five frames that allow forest managers to visualize a trajectory of change in the context of projected regional climate change, which are: Frame 1 (persistence), keep the same dominant tree species with little change; Frame 2 (moderate change), keep the same tree species with large changes in relative abundance; Frame 3 (forest biome change), major turnover in dominant tree species to a different forest biome; Frame 4 (forest loss), change from a forest to a non-forest biome; and Frame 5 (planted novel ecosystem), establish a novel ecosystem to maintain forest. These frames interact with ecosystem legacies and landscape diversity to determine levels of ecosystem resilience in a changing climate. Although forest readiness to adapt to Frame 1 and 2 scenarios, which would occur with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, is high, a business as usual climate change scenario would likely overwhelm the capacity of ecosystem legacies to buffer forest response, so that many forests would change to warmer forest biomes or non-forested biomes. Furthermore, the interactions among frames, legacies, and landscape diversity influence the transient dynamics of forest change; only Frame 1 leads to stable endpoints, while the other frames would have transient dynamics of change for the remainder of the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number965
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • Boreal forest
  • Climate adaptation
  • Ecosystem legacy
  • Landscape diversity
  • Temperate forest
  • Transient dynamics


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