Current Symptoms of Climate Change in Boreal Forest Trees and Wildlife

Loïc D’Orangeville
Martin-Hugues St-Laurent
Laura Boisvert-Marsh
Xianliang Zhang
Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau
Malcolm Itter
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This is a chapter from the book, Boreal Forests in the Face of Climate Change: Sustainable Management . Measuring climate change impacts on forest ecosystems can be challenging, as many of these changes are imperceptible within the typical time scale of short-term (e.g., 3–4 years) funding of research projects. Boreal trees are notoriously imperturbable, given their tolerance to harsh conditions and their adaptability. However, the buildup of decades of warming should now translate into measurable alterations of boreal ecosystem processes. The boreal forest is host to numerous northern animals; therefore, any change in boreal forest dynamics should affect wildlife. In this chapter, we aim to provide a nonexhaustive synthesis of documented impacts of climate change on selected key processes driving boreal forest ecosystem dynamics. We focus on the themes of plant and wildlife range shifts and stand growth and death, as they are keystone parameters of boreal forest ecosystem health that are symptomatic of climate change impacts on the boreal biota. For each theme, we introduce the general concepts and processes, convey some of the limitations of current assessments, and suggest future pressing challenges.