M. Johnston, E. Wheaton, S. Kulshreshtha, V. Wittrock, J. Thorpe
The Canadian Boreal Forest is a mainstay of the Canadian economy, and it has immense social, environmental and intrinsic importance. Canada depends on the boreal forest for many essential products and services including forest products, wildlife habitat, recreation, research, and educational opportunities, and spiritual values. Forestry is an important primary goods-producing industry in the Prairie Provinces. Many of the communities and businesses in the north depend heavily on forest related activities. As the boreal forest is altered by climate change, these values will be compromised in important ways. Climate change is expected to affect boreal forests to a greater degree than other forest types because of its northern location and because boreal forests are more sensitive to temperature.
Currently available information on climate change impacts is presented at global or regional scales and does not provide adequate information for forest and other resource managers to make decisions on changing their management to adapt. Overall objectives of this project are to collect and synthesize information on climate change impacts on western Canada’s boreal forest, and to present the information at spatial and temporal scales meaningful to forest management and planning. Specific objectives of this project are: 1) targeted literature review; 2) conceptual model; 3) sensitivity analyses of landscapes; 4) modelling approaches; 5) adaptation option identification; and 6) communication of results.
The Canada Country Study forest literature review by Wheaton (1997) was updated in several main topic areas including moisture and other climate variables, fire, insects, diseases, and economics. Interactions, knowledge gaps, adaptation options were discussed, and recommendations were developed. A very substantial gap in current boreal forest impacts, adaptations, and vulnerability work is that findings have not been drawn together in any comprehensive way. This is a serious obstacle to determining the vulnerability of the boreal forest and of those communities that rely on the forest. A conceptual model to accomplish this integration is essential and the foundation to further modelling (Figure 1).
We developed and presented a preliminary integrated conceptual model based on the findings from the literature review, meetings, workshops, and an assessment of existing models of various types.The conceptual model highlighted and synthesized the impact of climate change on forest fire frequency and severity; moisture stress and productivity; and forest insect pest outbreaks. Also included is the recognition that climate-induced impacts will occur in association with other land use activities such as timber harvesting, mining development and road construction. These must also be taken into account when assessing the ecological and socio-economic impacts of climate change. Conceptual models were also created to advance research on the effect of climate change on the output of the forest sector and to estimate the economic impacts of climate change on the forest sector. A limitation to this entire work was the lack of published impacts and adaptations papers for this area and subject. This lack is being partly addressed, as additional work done for the Government of Canada’s Climate Change Action Fund and for the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC) is being completed. However, socio-economic aspects, for example, may still be neglected.