Canadian Forest Service Publications

Rapid 21st century climate change projected to shift composition and growth of Canada’s Acadian Forest Region. Taylor, A.R.; Boulanger, Y.; Price, D.T.; Cyr, D.; McGarrigle, E.; Rammer, W.; Kershaw, J.A. 2017. Forest Ecology and Management 405: 284–294

Year: 2017

Available from: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39124

Language: English

CFS Availability: PDF (download)

Abstract

The impact of climate change on forests is expected to vary globally and regionally. Canada’s Acadian Forest Region lies in the transition between the North American boreal and temperate forest biomes and may be particularly sensitive to changes in climate because many of its component species are currently at their southern or northern climatic range limits. Although some species may be lost, others may exhibit major productivity boosts—affecting the goods and services we derive from them. In this study, we use a well-established forest ecosystem simulation model, PICUS, to provide the first exploration of the impact of climate change on the composition and growth of the Acadian Forest Region for the period 2011 to 2100 under two radiative forcing scenarios, RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5.

In the short term (2011–2040), little to no changes in forest composition or growth were projected under either forcing scenario compared with current forest conditions (simulated for 1981–2010 baseline climate); however, by mid-century, PICUS projected increasing departures from the baseline simulations in both composition and growth, with the greatest changes occurring under RCP 8.5 during the late 21st century (2071–2100). Our study indicates that under rapid 21st century warming, Canada’s Acadian Forest Region will begin to lose its boreal character (i.e., “deborealize”) as key tree species fail to regenerate and survive. Furthermore, increased growth and establishment by warm-adapted, temperate tree species may be unable to keep pace with the rapid loss of boreal species. This potential “lag effect” may lead to a temporary decrease in forest growth and wood supply during the late 21st century.

Plain Language Summary

The impact of climate change is expected to vary across the world's forests. North America's Acadian Forest region maybe particularly sensitive to climate change because many of the species that reside there are currently at their southern or northern climatic range limits. Although some species may be lost, others may exhibit major productivity boosts—affecting the goods and services we derive from them. Successful adaptation of the local forest sector requires knowledge of how regional forests may change under different climate change scenarios. In this study, we used two well-established forest ecosystem simulation models, PICUS and LANDIS-II, to investigate how climate change will affect the composition and productivity of the Acadian Forest for the time period 2011 to 2100 under two different climate change scenarios: RCP 2.6 (low climate change) and RCP 8.5 (severe climate change). In the short term (2011–2040), only small changes in forest composition and productivity were observed compared with current forest conditions under either climate change scenario. However, by mid-century, both models predicted increasing changes in both composition and productivity, with the most severe changes occurring under RCP 8.5. Specifically, our results indicate that under rapid 21st century warming (RCP 8.5), there will be a major deborealization of the Acadian Forest, characterized by a substantial decrease in the abundance of boreal species (e.g., black spruce and balsam fir) and an increase in temperate species (e.g., red maple and white pine). Furthermore, increased growth and colonization by warm-adapted, temperate tree species are unlikely to keep pace with the wide loss of cold-adapted boreal species. This "lag effect" will lead to a decrease in forest growth and wood supply during the latter part of this century.

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