CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

Land & Forests

Forests cover considerable proportions of the Atlantic provinces, from 47% in Prince Edward Island to 86% in New Brunswick. As a result, forestry has become fundamental to the economy of Atlantic Canada.

Given the mild and wet conditions prevalent in Atlantic Canada, drought is considered a comparatively minor force of disturbance. Less than 1% of the total forested area of the Atlantic Canadian provinces was burned in 2005. Given the current direct contribution of fire to the overall disturbance regime of Atlantic Canada and the overall wetter conditions predicted for the region in a future climate, fire itself will not likely become a matter of increased concern.

With shifting climate patterns brings temporary exposure of native tree species to sub-optimal atmospheric conditions that causes periods of stress. Each tree species lives within a certain climate envelop – that is a set of climatic conditions that the tree can tolerate. Climate change will cause these climate envelopes to fluctuate at first, then migrate later. Trees living close to the edge of their climate envelops will experience more frequent and eventually permanent shifts of climate conditions. This will result in stress for some species, but those same fluctuating conditions could be favorable for other tree species. Adapting to this change ahead of time can create more resilience.

Highlighted Report on The Fundy Biosphere Reserve, a non-profit organization that includes an area of more than 430,000 hectares of the upper Bay of Fundy coast, from St. Martins to the Tantramar Marsh to Moncton. Phillips, Ben (2015).  Forests of the Future in the Fundy Biosphere Reserve: Climate Change Resiliency of Tree Species in the Fundy Biosphere Reserve Region. 

Native insects and diseases play an essential ecological role in Atlantic Canada’s forests. By consuming trees and other plant material, forest insects and micro-organisms contribute to healthy change and regeneration in forest ecosystems. They help renew forests by removing old or otherwise susceptible trees, recycling nutrients and providing new habitat and food for wildlife. However, some infestations are so severe they destroy or damage large areas of commercially valuable forest, or infest Canadian forest products bound for export.  Then insects and diseases—whether native or alien—become “pests.”

As the climate changes, insects move into new ranges. Some species have a tough time adapting to the new environment and do not become invasive. Others may do well as they have no natural enemies in the new location. Like native pests, they can cause extensive damage in pure stands or stands with a high percentage of one species where they find a large available food source. A key message arising from forestry research is that climate change will likely bring on sudden and unpredictable disturbances. Forest managers will need to cultivate diverse and resilient tree populations because climate change means having to be ready for the unexpected. 

NB Forest Aerial
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