Our History

Climate and Carbon Science

Originally created in 2003 as the Northern Institute of Applied Carbon Science, NIACS has always worked to provide ecological, economic, social, and cultural information to manage forests in response to a changing climate. Collaborative and cross-boundary partnerships continue to be the foundation of this work.

Highlights from the Past 20 Years:

These highlights represent just some of the core accomplishments of NIACS since its beginning 20 years ago. This is an inward reflection of NIACS and doesn't fully encompass all of the accomplishments of NIACS partner organizations.

Browse our Annual Reports to Learn More


Vulnerability Assessments

One of the core functions of NIACS is to synthesize science for land managers. In this capacity, one of our major contributions has been to produce climate change vulnerability assessments for eight major forested landscapes of the Midwest and Northeast, and an additional six assessments for large metro areas. These assessments have been used as foundational resources by a wide variety of land management organizations, as they provide the necessary best available science on the topic.


Adaptation Resources and Support

One of the enduring contributions that NIACS has made in the field of climate change adaptation is our approach to adaptation planning, the Adaptation Workbook. This process was first published by the Forest Service in 2012 and updated in 2016 as part of Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate change tools and approaches for land managers. We have worked with thousands of land managers to generate over 600 real-world examples of climate change adaptation. NIACS has led or co-led the development of thirteen Adaptation Menus to provide organized climate adaptation strategies and approaches in a variety of different natural resource disciplines, from forestry to outdoor recreation to tribal values. We’ve also continued to explore new ways to support active learning and training on this topic, piloting our first Adaptation Planning and Practices workshop in 2013, developing an online Adaptation Workbook and online trainings, and creating Quick Guide formats of the process.


Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change

The Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) project was envisioned as a collaborative effort to establish experimental silvicultural trials across a network of forest ecosystems throughout the United States. As of 2023, the network has expanded to include 14 sites across the U.S. and Canada, which rigorously test a spectrum of adaptation options including resistance, resilience, and transition. Over 40 partner organizations contribute to the ASCC network, representing federal, state, forestry industry, nonprofit, and academic institutions. NIACS Partners have played a leading role in ASCC since its origin.


Carbon Science

NIACS was created as a carbon-focused institute, and in the early years our organization was focused on exploring how forest management influences carbon pools. In recent years, NIACS has published a national-level report on considering carbon in land management, developed a menu of climate adaptation actions to support forest carbon management, supported state-level commitments through the US Climate Alliance, completed a series of regional soil carbon meta-analyses (South Atlantic, Pacific Northwest, Central Appalachian/Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Lake States), co-developed online learning modules with the MSU Forest Carbon and Climate Program, and helped land managers evaluate the potential tradeoffs between ecosystem adaptation and carbon management. 


Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

NIACS is a collaborative and multi-institutional partnership. As such, we strive to create inclusive environments to explore ways to understand and address climate change. We value the benefits of many perspectives, and we work with intentionality to center and support the needs of our partners and the communities they serve through our activities.