Canadian Forest Service Publications

Climate and the southern limit of the western Canadian boreal forest. 1994. Hogg, E.H. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 24(9): 1835-1845.

Year: 1994

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 19079

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/x94-237

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Four species of boreal forest conifers share a similar southern limit of natural distribution in the three Prairie Provinces of western Canada. The southern boundaries of boreal forest and aspen parkland were compared with geographic patterns of several climate variables to provide a preliminary assessment of how global climate change could affect forest distribution in the future. Forest zonation corresponded most closely with climatic moisture regimes (annual precipitation minus potential evaporation). In contrast, thermal characteristics of climate (mean July and annual temperature, growing degree-days) showed an inconsistent relationship with forest zonation. It is postulated that moisture limitations prevent conifer regeneration south of the present limit of natural distribution. Alternatively, the more arid climates south of the boreal forest may have promoted higher fire frequencies historically, thus preventing conifers from achieving sufficient longevity to regenerate. The driest areas of boreal forest in the region occur at low elevations in west-central Manitoba, throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta, and the southwestern Mackenzie District, Northwest Territories; these areas may be most vulnerable to increased climatic dryness. Climatically induced losses of forest cover from these low-elevation areas could eventually lead to the fragmentation of the boreal forest in western Canada.