For more than 10,000 years, Canada’s forests have been shaped by natural disturbances such as fire, insects, disease, drought and wind storms. Now climate change is accelerating the pace of these disturbances, which may change future forest landscapes forever:
- Climate change is increasing the number of forest fires and areas burned each season. This will gradually make Canada’s forests younger and possibly enhance the slow process of change in species dominance and composition. It could also impact society by increasing fire risks to communities and infrastructure, and by reducing the area available for harvest.
- A succession of warm winters in British Columbia made the mountain pine beetle outbreak possible, affecting tens of millions of hectares of forest. The current spruce budworm outbreak in eastern Canada is taking place in regions that used to be too cold for the insect to cause significant damage.
- Canada’s cold climate has served as a barrier against many invasive species on Canada’s forested land, but the warming climate is lowering this defense. Some invasive species already established in North America are slowly moving north, as new arrivals may have a better chance of surviving.
Climate Change Strategies
Forests tend to change slowly because of the relatively long lifespan of trees. The acceleration in natural disturbances, however, has the potential to reduce how many trees grow back or change which tree species dominate a region. The forest products sector is closely monitoring and adapting its forest management practices to take into account the impact of climate change – including exploring an assisted migration strategy that focuses on planting species better adapted to warmer climate conditions.
To learn more about Canada’s forests and forest products industry, check out the 26th edition of The State of Canada’s Forests: Annual Report 2016. This annual snapshot from Natural Resources Canada explores the themes of sustainable forest management practices and climate change strategies and solutions.