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Expected Effects of Climate Change on Forest Disturbance Regimes in British Columbia

Sean R. Haughian, Philip J. Burton, Steve W. Taylor, Charles Curry

Abstract


Projections for forest disturbance and damage under a changing climate in British Columbia are summarized, with the objective of collating regionally specific expectations so that land managers can take pro-active steps to avoid or adapt to the changes expected.  While some projections are based on extrapolations of recent multi-decadal trends, most are based on global climate models (GCMs) that must make assumptions about the range of CO2 emissions and the status of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions over the next century. Regardless of emission scenarios, it is universally expected that British Columbia will experience warmer air temperatures, coupled with more precipitation in some regions and less in others. Forest fires are expected to be more frequent and more intense in the southern half of the province and in the Taiga Plains, but less important in other portions of the province.  Forest insects and fungal pathogens are expected to more fully occupy the current range of their host tree species and expand ranges northward and to higher elevations along with their hosts.  More frequent and detrimental pest outbreaks are expected in some regions when several years of favourable weather align.  Wind damage, floods, and landslides can be expected to increase on terrain where they are already a risk factor.  For many agents of tree mortality, expected changes in disturbance regime amount to an expansion or shifting of the seasonal window of activity, sometimes with different trends projected for different seasons and different regions of the province.  The prediction of future forest disturbance regimes is in its infancy, requiring a much more concerted effort in compiling both empirical and simulated data, but managers may wish to adjust plans accordingly where there is largely a consensus among current and projected trends.  


Keywords


disturbance ecology, ecoprovinces, forest pathogens, insect outbreaks, tree mortality, wildfire, wind damage

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