Canadian Forest Service Publications

Sustainability of boreal forests and forestry in a changing environment. 2010. Burton, P.J.; Bergeron, Y.; Bogdanski, B.E.C.; Juday, G.P.; Kuuluvainen, T.; McAfee, B.J.; Ogden, A.E.; Teplyakov, V.K.; Alfaro, R.I.; Francis, D.A.; Gauthier, S.; Hantula, J. Pages 249-282 Chapter 14 in G. Mery, P. Katila, G. Galloway, R.I. Alfaro, M. Kanninen, M. Lobovikov, and J. Varjo, editors. Forests and Society - Responding to Global Drivers of Change. International Union of Forest Research Organizations, Vienna, Austria, IUFRO World Series.

Year: 2010

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 32070

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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The circumpolar boreal forest is the fourth largest terrestrial biome on the planet. It is entering a period of relatively rapid transition, propelled by climate change and economic development. Warming conditions threaten to alter processes as diverse as permafrost retention, insect outbreaks, and transportation. Thawing permafrost and increased levels of natural and anthropogenic disturbance may result in net releases of carbon dioxide and methane, while forest cover with greater biomass can be expected to expand onto the arctic tundra. Human use in some parts of northern forests is becoming more centralised and industrialised, with cumulative impacts from hydroelectric development, the oil and gas sector, mining, timber harvesting, and transportation. Communities tend to be widely spaced, and are either highly dependent on resource-based commodity exports or on subsistence-based lifestyles supported by local biodiversity. Efforts are underway in many jurisdictions to curtail illegal logging and environmentally damaging industrial development, to account for non-timber forest values in the course of forest management, and to promote the economic diversification of communities. In order to preserve the integrity of ecosystem processes, efforts are being directed in some jurisdictions to better emulate natural disturbance regimes and forest structures in the implementation of ecosystem-based management. The ecosystems and people of the world’s boreal forests are vulnerable to impending changes in climate and socio-economics, although regions within the biome differ markedly in their exposure to dramatic changes in climate and forest products markets and also in the adaptive capacity of communities and infrastructure. Despite the changes that can be expected, the boreal zone will continue to present opportunities to undertake land management over largely natural forests in a manner that respects the need for sustaining biodiversity, economically viable enterprises, and northern communities. If regional economies can diversify as well, such an advantage may also facilitate ecotourism and attractive lifestyle options in the circumboreal region.