Canadian Forest Service Publications

Climate change as a current issue for the Canadian forest sector. 1991. Pollard, D.F.W. Environmental Professional 13: 37-42.

Year: 1991

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 3082

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free)

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Foresters are caught in a dilemma: they implement plans for our future forests that often are irreversible, and they must do so amid many uncertainties. Along with a predicted shortfall in timber supply, emerging competition offshore, and a rapidly developing public involvement in decision making, the forester now must cope with the threat of disturbance in the most critical factor of all, climate. At the heart of the issue is the possibility that forest ecosystems, both natural and managed, old and new, gradually will become less adapted to prevailing conditions, as climatic regions shift position during the course of a single life cycle of the dominant trees. Some technological solutions undoubtedly will ensue, but the impact of a mismatch between forests and climate ultimately will depend on the resilience in the genetic composition of key species. In worse case scenarios, forests will become stressed by soil moisture deficits induced by climate change, and rendered increasingly vulnerable to pests that may in turn be favoured by the same changes. Offsetting such calamitous prospects is the possibility that forest growth will be enhanced by warmer, longer seasons, and by an assured increase in available carbon dioxide; the latter offers the intriguing potential for improved efficiency in the use of water, even under drought. In the meantime, forests are being perceived as instruments for storing carbon. Forest nations may be called upon in the future to assist in slowing the greenhouse effect, but only certain strategies can be effective. There is potential for ineffective action that could compromise seriously options open to forest managers. The forest sector is able to take immediate steps towards an adaptive strategy by ensuring that a wide range of genetic resources remains available for development of both managed and unmanaged forests.