Can Boreal and Temperate Forest Management be Adapted to the Uncertainties of 21st Century Climate Change?

TitleCan Boreal and Temperate Forest Management be Adapted to the Uncertainties of 21st Century Climate Change?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsPark A, Puettmann K, Wilson E, Messier C, Kames S, Dhar A
JournalCritical Reviews in Plant Sciences
Keywordsacclimation, Adaptation, climate change, ecophysiology, epigenetics, forest management, forestry, Phenology, predictive modelling, silviculture

Considerable uncertainties remain about magnitude and character, if not general direction of anthropogenic climate change. Global mean temperature could increase by 1.5–4.5°C or more over historic levels, and extreme weather events—drought, storms, and flooding—are likely to increase greatly in frequency. Although ecologists and foresters agree that the practice of forestry will be transformed under climate change, these uncertainties compound the challenge of achieving sustainable, adaptive forest management. In this aritcle, we (i) present a multidisciplinary synthesis of current knowledge of responses of temperate and boreal tree species and forest communities to climate change, and (ii) outline silvicultural strategies for adapting temperate and boreal forests to confront climate change. Our knowledge synthesis proceeds through critical appraisals of efforts to model future tree distributions and responses to climate change, and reviews physiological, phenological, acclimation, and epigenetic responses to climate. As is the case of climate change itself, there are numerous uncertainties about tree species and provenance responses to climate change. For example, acclimation of respiration and epigenetic conditioning of seed embryos has the potential to buffer species against limited warming. Provenances within species also display idiosyncratic responses to altered climates, implying that soemm varieties will be more resilient or resistant to climate change than others. Genetically determined limits to climatic tolerance, and the limits of tree community resistance and resilience (speed of recovery from disturbance) in the face of climate-related disturbances are largely unknown. These unknowns require managers to adopt a portfolio of silvicultural strategies, which may range from minor modifications of current practices to design of novel multi-species stands that may have no historical analogue. Forest managers must be prepared to respond nimbly as they develop, incorporate new insights about climate change and species responses to warming into their practices. Marshalling all strategies and sources of knowledge should enable forest managers to mount (at least) a partially successful response to the challenges of climate change.


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