I missed Blog Action Day, but this is my post on climate change as it relates to forests in my part of the world (BC, Canada).

It is inspired by a conference I was at yesterday on this very topic.

The Good
To start on an optimistic note, there may be some good changes in many forests around the world, caused by warmer temperatures and increased carbon in the atmosphere. How can this be? Well, warmer temperatures may increase the growth rate of trees, increasing their overall growth, and the time it takes for a tree to become mature. Increased carbon in the atmosphere acts as a fertilizer, also potentially increasing overall growth in the trees.

As the climate changes new tree species may migrate into areas where they are not currently growing. Not all change is bad, and with species migration, our forests will certainly look differently than they do now. Change in our forests has been occurring throughout time and the forests we know today were not here thousands of years ago; they will change again.

The Bad
In BC of our forests have been devasted by one little insect, the mountain pine beetle. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of pine forests are dead or dying, and our future landscape is going to be much younger, and temporarily, much less forested, than it is today. Our concern is over new insects which also may, because of warmer climates, suddenly become much larger in population, and also able to infest areas where they previously have been absent. If this occurs, other tree species, such as spruce and Douglas fir, may also soon be dead. Couple this with increased chance of large forest fires, we may be facing a disasterous situation in our forested ecosystems. Already, we are questioning how biodiveristy, wildlife populations, and functioning ecoystems will be able to recover from widespread outbreaks.

The Ugly
The ugly part of all this is that we don't know what is going to happen. We never can predict the future, but we are moving in to such new territory that our information sources and ability to manage sustainable is seriously impeded by our lack of knowledge and understanding of how forests and insects will respond to changing climate conditions. Coupled with our ignorance of what the weather variation actually will be from year to year, we need to learn how to adapt, and pretty darn quickly.

Not to end on a completely pessimistic note, that is why we were at the workshop yesterday, to try and come up with some of these answers.


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