Canadian Forest Service Publications

Stand-level drivers most important in determining boreal forest response to climate change. 2018. Boulanger, Y.; Taylor, A.R.; Price, D.T.; Cyr, C.; Sainte-Marie, G. Journal of Ecology.

Year: 2017

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 38940

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12892

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  1. Forest ecosystems contain several climate-sensitive drivers that respond differentially to changes in climate and climate variability. For example, growth and regeneration processes are “stand-scale” drivers, while natural disturbances operate at “landscape scale”. The relative contributions of these different scale drivers of change in ecosystems create great uncertainty when simulating potential responses of a forest to changes in climate.

  2. Here, we assess those contributions, along with harvesting effects, on biomass (both total and of individual species) in the southern boreal forest of Canada under three climate scenarios (RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5).

  3. Projections were performed for three future 30-year time periods, in four study regions located on an east–west transect, using a forest landscape model (LANDIS-II), parameterized using a forest patch model (PICUS). Projected future impacts were assessed for each driver of change, and found to vary greatly among regions, species, future period and forcing scenarios. Fire, and stand-scale climate-induced impacts, had the strongest effects on forest vegetation, as well as on total and species’ biomass under most RCP scenarios, but the largest impacts occurred mostly after 2050, particularly with the RCP 8.5 scenario.

  4. The relative importance and trends in species-specific impacts varied, both spatially and according to the different RCP scenarios. Western regions were generally more sensitive to stand-scale climate-induced changes, whereas eastern regions were more sensitive to changes in fire regime. Our study also highlights the importance of considering the prevalence of species-level functional traits when assessing the sensitivity of forest landscapes to a given driver of change in the context of increasing anthropogenic climate forcing.

  5. Synthesis. Increases in fire activity, and direct impacts of climate change on forest growth and regeneration, will be the most important drivers of future changes in southern boreal forest landscapes.

Plain Language Summary

The results of this study suggest that the increase in forest fires and the impacts of climate change at the stand level would have the most significant consequences on future forest vegetation according to most greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Simulations predict that the greatest impacts would mostly occur after 2050. In addition to the effect of harvesting on forest landscapes, researchers demonstrated that increases in fire activity and the direct impacts of climate change on growth and regeneration would be the most significant factors in future changes to the landscapes within the southern boreal forest of Canada.

In this study, the researchers assessed how various factors contributed to ecosystemic changes at the stand and landscape levels and evaluated the effects of harvesting on biomass (total and by species) in Canada’s southern boreal forest according to three climate scenarios.