Canadian Forest Service Publications

Using an ensemble of downscaled climate model projections to assess impacts of climate change on the potential distribution of spruce and Douglas-fir forests in British Columbia. 2012. Flower, A.; Murdock, T.Q.; Taylor, S.W.; Zwiers, F.W. Environmental Science & Policy 26: 63-74.

Year: 2012

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34384

Language: English

Availability: Not available through the CFS (click for more information).

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2012.07.024

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Many of the world’s forests are likely to face multiple stresses under a rapidly changing climate. Understanding the impact of climate change on tree species suitability is therefore crucial for forest management planning and policy development. We use the Douglas-fir and spruce (white spruce, Engelmann spruce, and interior spruce) forests of British Columbia as a case study. The impact of projected climate change on these forests was assessed using flexible bioclimatic envelope models appropriate for areas with sparse species locations records. Analysis of the model results focused on quantifying uncertainty due to differences between global climate models, emissions scenarios, and spatial resolution of climate data. To this end, future suitability was modelled using downscaled climate data from a collection of 10 climate projections that sampled across nine different global climate models and three different emissions scenarios (A2, A1B, and B1). All projections indicate a rapid shift in suitability for both spruce and Douglas-fir to higher elevations and latitudes relative to their current range. However, significant differences exist between the projections with regard to the pace, extent, and fine-scale details of these changes. This research was conducted as part of a collaborative interdisciplinary assessment involving both scientists and resource managers.

Plain Language Summary

This study estimates how climate change may affect the distribution of areas suitable for growing Douglas-fir and spruce in British Columbia. For both species, it is estimated that climatically suitable areas will shift to higher elevations and higher latitudes. This shift is expected to place stress on spruce and Douglas-fir forests in areas that become climatically unsuitable, leading to forest health problems and reduced growth. Due to the uncertainty of future climate, the estimates in this study are also uncertain. Some opportunities exist to reduce the impacts of climate change on spruce and Douglas-fir forests through forest management.