Boreal forest being driven to tipping point by climate change, study finds – ‘'The changes could be very dramatic and very fast’Posted by Jim at Wednesday, September 02, 2015
By Bob Weber
21 August 2015
(The Canadian Press) – Climate change is forcing the boreal forest that covers much of northern Canada to a tipping point, concludes a newly published study.
"The changes could be very dramatic and very fast," said Dmitry Schepaschenko of Austria's Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
Schepaschenko was one of three authors who collaborated on a detailed review of current research on the boreal forest. Their conclusions were released Thursday in a special edition of the journal Science.
One of the authors is from Natural Resources Canada, but was unable to speak on the record because of restrictions placed on public servants during the federal election.
The boreal forest is one of the largest ecological zones on the planet. It covers much of northern Canada and extends into Scandinavia and northern Russia.
Although it remains largely intact, it faces the most severe expected temperature increases anywhere on Earth. Schepaschenko said some parts of Siberia are likely to eventually become 11 C warmer.
That will bring greater precipitation, but not enough to compensate for the dryness caused by hotter weather. A drier boreal will suffer new diseases, insect infestations and vast wildfires.
Nor will the forest simply be able to shift north as warmer temperatures creep up from the south, said Schepaschenko.
"The forests can't go so far to the north. The speed at which forests can move forward is very slow, like 100 metres a decade."
The result, the study concludes, is that the forest is likely to transform from an unbroken canopy of green to a mixed landscape with groves of trees separated by open grasslands.
"This forest will convert to a type of savannah." [more]
ABSTRACT: The boreal forest, one of the largest biomes on Earth, provides ecosystem services that benefit society at levels ranging from local to global. Currently, about two-thirds of the area covered by this biome is under some form of management, mostly for wood production. Services such as climate regulation are also provided by both the unmanaged and managed boreal forests. Although most of the boreal forests have retained the resilience to cope with current disturbances, projected environmental changes of unprecedented speed and amplitude pose a substantial threat to their health. Management options to reduce these threats are available and could be implemented, but economic incentives and a greater focus on the boreal biome in international fora are needed to support further adaptation and mitigation actions.