Climate change impacts on forests
Climate is a major influencing factor on forests, and forests in turn influence climate.
Earth’s climate has been changing regularly through natural cycles during the entire course of the planet’s history. At least five major ice ages have occurred in Earth’s past, each involving periods of glacial cooling and interglacial warming. With every prolonged period of change in climate, large-scale changes in forest composition have taken place as well.
Today, however, because climate change appears to be occurring more rapidly than it has in the past, researchers are investigating the possibility that Canada’s forests could be altered in new and significant ways—particularly if effective adaptation measures are lacking.
The Canadian Forest Service (CFS) is involved in two major areas of research on this front: (1) understanding the impacts of climate change on forests and the forest sector; and (2) preparing for suitable responses to these impacts. The CFS is, for example:
- studying the influence of Canada’s forests on the global carbon balance
- assessing the past, present and future impacts of climate change on Canada’s forests
- identifying options for using Canada’s forests to mitigate climate change
- identifying options for helping Canada’s forest sector adapt to climate change
New knowledge gained is helping forest managers plan for ways to reduce the risks of climate change negatively affecting ecosystems and the forest sector. At the same time, it is helping managers optimize what benefits may come from climate change.
The CFS is also working with provinces, territories, universities and industry to develop decision support tools for managers and policy-makers.
Canada’s forests cover a greater land area and store more carbon than do the forests of almost any other nation. How Canada manages its forests is therefore a global concern. Recognizing this responsibility, Canada is actively engaged in international negotiations on climate change. It is also involved in numerous research and monitoring projects aimed at understanding how climate change will affect forests and how forest changes will in turn affect climate.
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