Canadian Forest Service Publications

Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the managed Canadian boreal forest. 2014. Gauthier, S; Bernier, P.; Burton, P.J.; Edwards, J.; Isaac, K.; Isabel, N.; Jayen, K.; Le Goff, H.; Nelson, E.A. Environmental Reviews 22(3):256-285.

Year: 2014

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35357

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/er-2013-0064

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Climate change is affecting Canada’s boreal zone, which includes most of the country’s managed forests. The impacts of climate change in this zone are expected to be pervasive and will require adaptation of Canada’s forest management system. This paper reviews potential climate change adaptation actions and strategies for the forest management system, considering current and projected climate change impacts and their related vulnerabilities. These impacts and vulnerabilities include regional increases in disturbance rates, regional changes in forest productivity, increased variability in timber supply, decreased socioeconomic resilience, and increased severity of safety and health issues for forest communities. Potential climate change adaptation actions of the forest management system are categorized as those that reduce nonclimatic stressors, those that reduce sensitivity to climate change, or those that maintain or enhance adaptive capacity in the biophysical and human subsystems of the forest management system. Efficient adaptation of the forest management system will revolve around the inclusion of risk management in planning processes, the selection of robust, diversified, and no-regret adaptation actions, and the adoption of an adaptive management framework. Monitoring is highlighted as a no-regret action that is central to the implementation of adaptive forest management.

Plain Language Summary

All of Canada's managed boreal forest will be significantly affected by climate change, and forest management practices will need to take this into account. This article presents a range of possible actions to promote adaptation to these changes by the forest sector, in addition to various forest management adaptation strategies. Each solution is investigated in light of the impact of current and projected climate conditions, and takes into account the relative vulnerability of the different components of the forest environment (biophysical and human).

Effects of climate change on the boreal forest include:

•an increase in the frequency of disturbances;

•changes in forest productivity, which vary from one region to the next;

•variability of the timber supply;

•a decrease in the socio-economic resilience of forest communities;

•a resurgence of issues related to the health and safety of these communities.

The forest management adaptation strategies proposed in this report are capable of targeting three objectives: reduce stress factors unrelated to climate, decrease climate change sensitivity and help to maintain or increase adaptive capacity in the biophysical environment, in the forest sector and in forest communities.

Forest management adaptation measures should be structured around the inclusion of risk in forest planning, a diversified choice of adaptation options and the adoption of a flexible management framework. Given the uncertainty surrounding the response of ecosystems to climate change, an effective monitoring network is crucial.