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Ten years ago, a parcel of forest east of Seattle was clear-cut for timber.

Now researchers are using the site to learn how to restore forests so they’ll thrive in a warmer, drier future.

“The trees that we’re planting now are going to be the trees that we have in the forest in 30 years. So we’re really looking at the climate 30, 40, 50 years out and saying, ‘What is the forest that we want to have … in the longer-term future?’” says Rowan Braybrook of the Northwest Natural Resource Group, a nonprofit.

Her team helped plant 14,000 new trees on the site. Some are species such as incense cedar that are native to areas farther south — where today’s climate resembles what Seattle’s will be like in a few decades.

Others, like the Douglas firs, are already common in Washington. But the team sourced seedlings from tree populations in Oregon and California that are adapted to warmer conditions.

“We’re checking the survival and vigor of all of the trees on an annual basis to gauge how quickly they’re growing and how they’re responding to drought conditions,” Braybrook says.

They’re sharing their process and results to help guide other forest restoration efforts as the climate warms.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media