Climate-Smart Forestry Research

The Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) project is a collaborative effort to test experimental forest management strategies across the United States and Canada. Scientists, land managers, and other partners have established a growing number of initial trial sites as part of this long-term study to research ecosystem responses to a range of climate change adaptation actions.

Forest Management Methods

The 1,825-acre Hillsdale Preserve, a property in Richmond managed by the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), is the location of ASCC study site in Rhode Island. The Hillsdale Preserve is dominated by oak-hickory forest and is experiencing forest health issues exacerbated by climate stress, which makes it an ideal study site.

At the Hillsdale Preserve, three types of forest management strategies (treatments) adapted from ASCC protocol are being implemented:

ResistanceMaintain relatively unchanged conditions by trying to improve forest health and defensesPromote health of existing trees as much as possible; regenerate oak & hickory and other species using traditional multi-stage “shelterwood” harvesting method; no planting
ResilienceEnable the forest to accommodate some change, while returning to prior condition after disturbancesExpand and create new gaps favoring oak & hickory while promoting overall diversity; plant native tree seedlings adapted to site conditions including oaks and possibly other species
TransitionIntentionally help the forest adapt to changing and projected future conditionsPromote future-adapted species composition and multi-aged structure by creating larger gaps and planting tree seedlings, including oaks of mid-Atlantic origin and possibly other species

The results of the three treatments (as well as an unmanaged no-action control) will be compared to determine the effectiveness of each approach. Beginning with pre-treatment baseline measurements, researchers are conducting annual vegetation monitoring at a network of fixed plots to analyze how forest canopy and understory conditions change in response to the treatments. 


Work at URI is led by Dr. Scott McWilliams, Professor of Wildlife Ecology & Physiology, and Christopher Riely, Forestry Specialist and Research Associate. The study is a collaboratively funded RI DEM Division of Forest Environment project. The Hillsdale site is part of the larger Southern New England Exurban Oak ASCC affiliate project that includes several replicate sites in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Partners include: