Using Climate Data and Models in Forest Management

In 2021, Mosaic Forest Management collaborated with a climate data expert and researcher from the University of Victoria, B.C. to understand how a changing climate will impact their forestry operations over the next several decades and to incorporate the information into their climate adaptation strategies. Spurred by recent extreme climatic events, including heat domes, wildfires and atmospheric rivers, the company set out to better understand how climate change is expected to impact forests at a local scale and how they can plan to be more resilient to climate variability and extreme weather events.

Mosaic Forest Management is Canada’s largest private timberland producer, with over 2000 people employed in their operations. The company manages several land bases across Vancouver Island and the interior of coastal mainland B.C. Their land bases have a unique set of climate characteristics that vary spatially. For instance, while only separated by about 80km, their land base in Port Renfrew receives about 3500 mm of precipitation per year on average, while their Victoria site receives less than 900 mm per year. As Mosaic set out to adjust their operations to account for climate change, they knew they needed to get climate projections on a small spatial resolution to account for the differences in working conditions from one watershed to another. As such, the objective of this project was to analyze climate projections at a finer and localized spatial resolution to understand how climate change is expected to impact forests at a local scale. This information was used to inform Mosaic’s climate preparedness initiatives across its various forest management, planning and operations, such as culvert, bridge, and road designs; fire risk and shutdown procedures; growth and yield; and seedling health and planting management.

Research for the development and analysis of climate data was funded by Mitacs, a nonprofit national research organization that partners with Canadian academia, private industry, and government, to operate research and training programs. As a result of this work, Mosaic will continue to apply a finer spatial resolution and consistent parameters to prioritize how and where they focus their adaptation efforts.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

Recent unexpected and unpredictable wildfire events in B.C, coupled with the 2011 atmospheric river event, caused significant damage to critical infrastructure across Mosaic’s forestry operations. This prompted Mosaic and its investors to take notice and recognize the relevance and urgency of climate-related considerations in their strategic planning.

The research team used the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium’s (PCIC) Climate Explorer tool to locate, visualize, and download projected future climate conditions for the Pacific region. The research team accessed a wealth of climate data to conduct their analysis, focusing on four key points across B.C., including North Island/Mainland, Central Island, Southwest Island, and Southeast Island. The data spanned three distinct time periods (1981-2010, 2011-2039, 2040-2069). The year 2070 was excluded due to uncertainties associated with projections for such a distant future. Mosaic opted for the CanESM2 model, deemed the most suitable for western Canada, and selected the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 as the most realistic climate scenario at the time of publication.

Throughout the process, the research team relied on online tutorials provided by PCIC. The results identified two primary climate stressors: high periods of intense precipitation that may cause structural instability of slopes and heighten the risk of landslides in wet seasons, and the potential risk of wildfires and extreme heat, during the dry season.

Identifying Actions

In late 2021/2022, Mosaic began collaborating closely with climate modelling experts and researchers to develop models to serve as tools for strategic and operational planning. They also conducted vulnerability and risk assessments aimed at understanding the impacts of these climate-related challenges. The planning process involved the active participation of key actors, particularly the Climate Solutions Team at Mosaic, which convened bi-weekly meetings with representatives from diverse operational branches, including seed orchard management, land use foresters, and engineers. Surveys distributed throughout operational branches gathered insights on climate variables and associated weather impacts. The data collection was facilitated through questionnaires administered by branch leaders on the Climate Solutions Team, assessing the relevance of variables to individual employees and their work. This approach aimed to analyze and present the most pertinent data, in a digestible format, tailored to the specific needs and issues faced by the operational branches. Stakeholder engagement also involved presenting findings to investors and local watershed groups interested in understanding the company’s preparedness for future climate change. The information was well-received by its stakeholders who were keen on better understanding the challenges presented by a changing climate. Additionally, Mosaic frequently interacted with local communities, watershed, and conservation groups to inform them about how the climate is changing and how the company is preparing.


To ensure that their forest management planning incorporates and considers climate change, Mosaic has implemented several initiatives. For instance, they developed a Climate Solutions Strategy to help guide their forest management activities, which included aspects of Climate Smart Forestry from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Forest Management Standard. This standard promotes sustainable forestry through 13 principles, 17 objectives, 41 performance measures, and 114 indicators all dedicated to protecting water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, threatened and endangered species, and forests with exceptional conservation value.

In addition, results of the climate modeling were used to guide strategic and operational planning. For instance, staff reviewed road crossing infrastructure (e.g., bridges and culverts) to ensure it remains adequate for unexpected extreme weather conditions. This information helped their forest planners and managers adjust or make upgrades to the built infrastructure that supports their operations so that it can handle expected extreme weather events. For example, projected increases in periods of heavy rainfall leading to flooding led them to make critical changes in culvert sizing. As another example, Mosaic also constructed retention ponds around Vancouver Island, to address potential water shortages because of projected increases in drought. The decision to build these ponds is grounded in the conclusions drawn from the climate projections, providing the company with a sense of certainty and confidence in its actions.

Other actions include their implementation of B.C’s Ministry of Forests’ Climate Based Seed Transfer guidelines across their private and public forest lands, recognizing it as an important climate change adaptation strategy that matches seedlings and seedlots to the best biogeoclimatic zones.

In the realm of their silviculture planning, Mosaic has embraced a proactive approach by leveraging the climate projections developed to anticipate future ecosystem shifts. Notably, the company has adjusted its planting schedules, ensuring optimal weather conditions for seedling survival. They have also adjusted the range of parent trees in their western redcedar orchard to produce seedlings more closely adapted to future summer drought conditions. Furthermore, Mosaic has adapted its forest management techniques to include harvester thinning, which will help manage expected increases in drought on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. Thinning is the selective removal of trees and is considered an important forest management practice known to reduce the impact of drought and the risk and severity of fire when harvest slash is burned or removed.

Mosaic has also translated the localized climate projections into plain language memos for staff and its contractors to consider how climate change might manifest itself in the areas they work. For instance, memos for the Spring season have noted that under a changing climate, Vancouver Island is likely to experience more unpredictable weather conditions, including sudden temperature changes and fluctuating precipitation levels. The memos include key messages for contractors about preparing for rapidly changing weather conditions. In the future, the company plans to provide detailed best practices with respect to the integration of climate projections into operational practices. This has been well received with staff and contractors who consider access to climate projections for their site locations to be critical in their efforts to prepare for future climate risks.

Lastly, the company participates in cooperative research with university and government agencies on innovative projects such as selection and breeding for drought tolerance and pest resistance, and landscape level forest genetic diversity.

Going forward, Mosaic aims to closely monitor its forests, emphasizing the importance of early detection of any potential forest health concerns.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

Due to its success, the project was extended to a second year. The climate expert has been actively engaged in presenting the results of the climate projections to regional branches, investor groups, and Mosaic executives. There has been broad acceptance and incorporation of the data by the engineering team, such as updates to planning standards and infrastructure upgrades. However, there are limitations in the current analysis, and the researcher advocates for a more comprehensive approach that integrates uncertainty through multi-model ensembles and as well as different emission scenarios to establish a range of projections and associated confidence intervals. Also, despite the success, challenges emerged, such as the need for a finer spatial scale, especially for safety and financial planning on very specific landscape locations. There is interest in access to weather parameters at a 1km squared scale, recognizing the limitations of the current 10km scale provided by PCIC.

Mosaic currently operates approximately 40 weather stations across their land base, providing a valuable record of data. Mosaic is investing in permanent weather stations to ensure a stable and continuous data stream. This data has proven instrumental during presentations, showcasing the variability from watershed to watershed and aiding in communicating intense weather events. Mosaic is committed to expanding its network of weather stations, emphasizing the installation of sites dedicated to providing long-term data for more robust climate change records in the area. Although the data wasn’t directly used for projections, it played a crucial role in presentations to stakeholders, highlighting the importance of variability in the context of climate change. Overall, there is a commitment to expanding the weather station network and incorporating long-term data as a proactive approach to monitoring and evaluating the impacts of climate change on their operations.

Next Steps

As a next step, Mosaic aims to integrate the tools and data developed into their existing models and promote the standardization of the climate change lens across all their planning and operations. An example is integrating the climate projection piece into their existing watershed and site level monitoring tools and having it as a standard procedure in future watershed assessments. Mosaic also wants to continue communicating results to a broad and diverse group of its employees, operational branches, and watershed groups. From an engineering perspective, Mosaic can now provide professionals who work on their individual site crossings with projections that they can incorporate into their infrastructure models. This package can save them time and money on climate change considerations and calculations.

Bringing awareness about Mosaic’s climate change preparedness efforts is a key focus for the Climate Solutions Team at Mosaic. Their next steps include advancing climate literacy among staff and its contractors about putting climate preparedness into practice.


Link to Full Case Study

Additional Resources:

Using climate change projections enables better adaptation decisions, as it allows you to better understand how the climate may change. To learn how to choose, access, and understand climate data, visit’s Learning Zone.