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Climate change impacts on boreal forest timber supply

Aaron F.J. Brecka, Chander Shahi and Han Y.H. Chen

Forest Policy and Economics, 2018, vol. 92, issue C, 11-21

Abstract: Recent studies have assessed the ecological effects of climate change on boreal forests; however, our understanding of the economic impacts of climate change on timber supply remains limited. Forestry is an important boreal industry; hence, it is necessary to better understand the ecological impacts that directly and indirectly affect this sector. We reviewed published literature concerning ecological impacts of climate change on biome shifts, regional forest disturbances, and tree growth, mortality and species compositional shifts in established forest stands. Subsequently, we examined how each factor influences timber supply and forestry. Tree species ranges have been and will continue migrating north to find more suitable growing conditions, but at a slower rate than climate change. Biome shifts from forests to shrub or grasslands may occur under persistent drought conditions. Warmer temperatures and lower climate moisture availability increase forest disturbances; notably fire and insect outbreaks, creating younger forests dominated by pioneer species and limiting harvestable material. While tree growth and mortality rates are spatially variable across established forest regions, tree mortality has temporally increased with climate change; accompanied by reduced growth or increased growth at a rate lower than mortality loss, resulting in a reduced rate of volume accumulation and timber available for harvest. Moreover, climate change favors pioneer species (Pinus spp. and Populus spp.) over late successional species (Picea spp. and Abies spp.). Our findings suggest that climate change has strong negative effects on boreal timber supply but may prompt operational adaptations, opening opportunities for forest industry to incorporate species such as Populus.

Keywords: Biome/species compositional shift; Forest disturbances; Forest management; Harvest volume; Productivity; Tree mortality rates (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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