Canadian Forest Service Publications

Projections of future forest age class structure under the influence of fire and harvesting: implications for forest management in the boreal forest of eastern Canada. 2017. Bergeron, Y.; Vijayakumar, D.B.I.P.; Ouzennou, H.; Raulier, F.; Leduc, A.; Gauthier, S. Forestry 90: 485-495.

Year: 2017

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 38592

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1093/forestry/cpx022

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In northeastern Canadian boreal forests, a coarse-filter approach was adopted to provide sustainable ecosystem services in order to maintain a balance between biodiversity, ecosystem function and timber production. An old forest (>100 years) maintenance target was established considering the range of historical variability in the proportion of this forest stage. However, the estimation of the harvesting rate that maintains the target level in old forests did not consider explicitly the impact of current and future, i.e. possibly higher, fire frequency. In this context, we compared historical, current, and future age structures according to recorded or projected fire activity and the current level of harvesting in western Quebec’s boreal forest. Results show that under the current rates of harvesting and fire, the proportion of old forests could reach a minimum level rarely seen in the natural landscape in the past. The situation could become even more critical with the projected increase in fire activity under climate change. Numerous forest and fire management solutions exist, such as increasing rotation length, implementing a diversified silviculture, using a fire-smart approach or reaching a better balance between intensive management and conservation. We advocate their rapid implementation to reverse the projected decrease in the proportion of old forests.

Plain Language Summary

In this study, the researchers have shown that the proportion of old forests in Quebec’s boreal forest could reach a historic low because of the current forest harvesting and fire rates. The situation could become even more critical due to the expected increase in fire activity attributable to climate change.

These results stem from the comparison of historical, current and projected structure data based on forest age, in relation to recorded or forecasted fire activity and current harvest levels.

There are many possible solutions that can be implemented to address this issue, including longer rotation times for timber harvesting, the diversification of logging operations, the implementation of “Fire Smart” strategies, or trying to reach a greater balance between harvesting operations and conservation efforts.

Research purpose: The purpose of this publication is to show the impact of the expected increase in fires on old boreal forests and to suggest forest management solutions that could help reverse the decrease in the proportion of old forests. Target audience: Canada’s scientific community and foresters.