Canadian Forest Service Publications

Tracking climate change effects: potential indicators for Canada's forests and forest sector. 2014. Gauthier, S.; Lorente, M.; Kremsater, L.; De Grandpré, L.; Burton, P.J.; Aubin, I.; Hogg, E.H.; Nadeau, S.; Nelson, E.A.; Taylor, A.R.; Ste-Marie, C. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Ottawa, Ontario. 86 p.

Year: 2014

Available from: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35231

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)


Climate change effects are already being observed in Canada’s forests, influencing the provision of goods and services on which the Canadian forest sector relies. Given the magnitude of projected climate change, it is becoming increasingly imperative to explore and implement adaptation measures in addition to mitigation strategies. Proactive adaptation is based on three fundamental pillars: knowledge of potential changes, the will to intervene, and the development and implementation of adaptation actions (Figure 1). In the context of climate change, proactive adaptation of the forest and the forest sector necessitates that each of these three pillars rely on an adaptive management cycle of monitoring, assessing, and adjusting. The development of a tracking system that reports on relevant indicators of climate change is an integral part of such a cycle.

The overarching goal of this report is to provide potential indicators and selection criteria to develop a tracking system for Canada’s forests and forest sector. The specific objectives are (1) to present a suite of potential indicators of climate change effects on Canada’s forests and forest sector and (2) to provide criteria to select and prioritize indicators to track climate change effects. Indicators of the effective-ness of adaptation actions are not covered in the report as it is a nascent field of investigation. The report is elaborated with a forest sector audience in mind including decision makers in forest industries; federal, provincial, and territorial departments and agencies; conservation agencies; nongovernmental organizations; research scientists; and the public.

Plain Language Summary

The observable effects of climate change are already evident in Canada's forests; they have an impact on the capacity of forests to provide the goods and services relied on by the forest sector. Given the projected magnitude of climate change, it is imperative that we define and implement adaptation measures in addition to mitigation strategies.

Adaptation measures are based on three key pillars: knowledge of potential changes, willingness to act, and the design and implementation of adaptation measures. These pillars fall within an adaptive management cycle that includes monitoring, evaluation, and readjustment of these measures. The development of a monitoring system for various indicators of change within the forest and the forest sector is an integral part of this cycle. This system provides information on the changes brought about by climate change. The proposed indicators have been assigned to one of the three following systems:

● the climate system: temperature, precipitation, extreme weather, etc.;

● the forest system: stand structure, soil, natural disturbances, species distribution and abundance, etc.; and

● the human system: forest uses, infrastructure, the economy, demography, health, governance, etc.

The purpose of this report is to provide potential indicators of change and to establish criteria to develop a system that monitors the effects of climate change on Canada's forests and forest sector.

Also available under the title:
Suivi des effets des changements climatiques. Indicateurs potentiels pour les forêts et le secteur forestier du Canada. (French)

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