Canadian Forest Service Publications

A biophysical approach to delineate a northern limit to commercial forestry: the case of Quebec's boreal forest. 2015. Jobidon, R.; Bergeron, Y.; Robitaille, A.; Raulier, F.; Gauthier, S.; Imbeau, L.; Saucier, J.-P.; Boudreault, C. Can. J. For. Res. 45:515-528.

Year: 2015

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35989

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2014-0260

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The boreal forest ecosystem is one of the largest frontier forests of the world, providing many ecological services to society. Boreal forests are also economically important, but forest harvesting and management become increasingly difficult when one moves from south to north in boreal environments. An approach was thus developed to assess the suitability of land units for timber production in a sustainable forest management (SFM) context in the northern boreal forest of Quebec (Canada). This area includes all of Quebec's spruce – feather moss bioclimatic domain (closed forest), as well as the southern portion of the spruce–lichen bioclimatic domain (open woodland). Four criteria specific to the biophysical aspects of SFM were evaluated in 1114 land districts: physical environment, timber production capacity, forest vulnerability to fire (e.g., probability that it reaches maturity), and conservation of biodiversity. Indicators and acceptability cutoff values were determined for each selected criterion, and a sequential analysis was developed to evaluate if a land district has the potential to be sustainably managed. This analytical process led to the classification of land districts into three categories: slightly sensitive (SFM possible); moderately sensitive (SFM possible under certain conditions); and highly sensitive (SFM not possible). The results show that 354 land districts were highly sensitive, 62 due to physical constraints (7.5% of the area), 130 due to insufficient potential productivity (15.4% of the area), 92 due to insufficient potential productivity to account for the fire risk (13.8% of the area), and 70 due to an insufficient proportion of tall and dense forest habitats (7.7% of the area — biodiversity criterion). This work provides scientific background to proposing a northern limit for forest management activities in Quebec. The developed approach could be useful in other jurisdictions to address similar issues.

Plain Language Summary

In this study, the researchers concluded that nearly one third of the ecodistricts in Quebec’s coniferous boreal forest are very sensitive, thus ruling out the possibility of sustainable forest management. Some of these ecodistricts are located north of the northern limit for timber allocations established in 2002, while others are located south of that limit.

These conclusions are drawn from the researchers’ analysis, which was based on four criteria: physical environment, timber production capacity, forest vulnerability to fire (e.g., likelihood of forests reaching maturity), and preservation of biodiversity.

This study was conducted at the request of the minister of Quebec’s ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs. One of the researchers associated with the study is a Natural Resources Canada employee.