Climate change is forcing the boreal forests that cover much of the northern Canada to a tipping point, according to a newly published study. The boreal forests extend across Canada, Alaska, Russia, Scandinavia and is one of the largest Agro-ecological cell (AEC) that has a unique combination of land form, soil and climate on the planet.
“The changes could be very dramatic” said Dmitry Schespaschenko of Austria’s Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. He was one of the three authors who collaborated on a detailed review of current research on the boreal forest. Their conclusions were published this Thursday is a special edition of the Journal Science.
Although the forests remain largely intact, it faces the most severe expected temperature increases anywhere on the Earth according to the researchers. “Although it remains largely intact, it faces the most severe expected temperature increases anywhere on Earth. Mr. Schespaschenko 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 the hot weather. A drier boreal will suffer new diseases, insect infestations and vast wildfires” The Canadian Press reported.
Nor will the forest be able to shift north as warmer temperatures creep up from the south, said Schespaschenko.
“The forests can’t go so far to the north. The speed at which forests can move forward is very slow, like 100 meters 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. “This forest will convert to a type of the savannah” the report said.
The consequences will be dire and affect everything from the billions of songbirds that nest in the forest to industries that depend on its vast resources. The study concludes that better management of the boreal forest is needed. “We really need some form of adaptive forest management” Schespaschenko added.
While much attention is given to the tropical rainforest often refereed to as “lungs of the Earth”, boreal is crucially important as well, according to Schespaschenko, if only for the amount of carbon it stores. “Boreal forests are underestimated right now. There could be big trouble. In our small world, everything is connected.” he said.
Anatoly Shvidenko, a research scholar with the Ecosystems Services and Management Program at Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), said in a statement:
“Boreal forests have the potential to hit a tipping point this century. It is urgent that we place more focus on climate mitigation and adaptation with respect to these forests, and also takes a more integrated and balanced view of forests around the world.”