Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have found that changing climate conditions are pushing BC's ecosystems out of the weather conditions they need to be sustained. These shifts in weather have enormous implications for forest management and carbon in BC.
Across BC's 16 major ecosystems, 'climate envelopes' have shifted by 23% on average as weather conditions have changed. This shift has 'caused a surprising amount of mismatch between the ecosystem and climate zones,' said Associate Professor Tongli Wang from UBC's Faculty of Forestry in this interview to the Vancouver Sun.
By measuring 44 variables, the researchers assessed shifting weather patterns over the past 40 years. Looking forward, their projections suggest that suitable climate for grasslands and dry forests will substantially increase. While the habitat for coastal rainforests is projected to remain stable, boreal, subalpine and alpine ecosystems will likely decline.
Scientists are looking for species that can withstand climate transitions over a multi-decade growing cycle. Trees planted today will be harvested in 50 or 60 years, so that they need to be planted with the climate of the 2050s in mind.
The uncertainty of climate change poses a risk to a wide range of forestry projects, carbon projects included. The Forest Products Association of Canada commented that 'figuring out how to adapt - which species may be more disease resistant - is a business imperative now, not just an environmental issue.'
Forest managers are using adaptive management to mitigate these risks. By planting drought resistant seedlings from hotter and drier ecosystems they are helping forests cope with climate conditions decades from now.
This kind of forest management will increase certainty around forest ecosystems, helping forest carbon projects provide the quality credits required by markets.