I spent the weekend paddling in the middle of the boreal forest. It was a great mix of good stress navigating rough water and realizing that I had forgotten matches and had to light my stove with a flint and steel and relaxation with sunset paddles and listening to the loons. It also got me thinking about what will happen to the place with increasing human-induced climate change. How will the forests change?
Reich et al (2022) examined what will happen to the forests and it isn’t positive. Coniferous trees, pine, spruce, and fir, the main trees of the boreal, are likely to decline. The young trees don’t do well with warming temperatures. Drier weather will also lead to high mortality of the young trees.
In southern areas, temperate trees do a lot better but not good enough to completely replace the conifers. This means that not only will the boreal forest decline, but it isn’t likely to be replaced at an equivalent level by temperate forests. There are going to be less trees in these areas and that will result in declining forest health and insufficient replacement.
These changes would certainly impact my experience this weekend. There are several islands on the lakes I was on and every one of them was covered in conifers.. I can’t imagine what it would be like with huge gaps in the forest cover. And it would obviously affect the wildlife. I’ve seen deer and moose, loons and beavers. I’ve seen signs of bears. And then there are all the small critters like the weasel who lived in our campsite this weekend. If you change the type of trees and the density of them it is going to change the habitat and not all of the animals currently there will be able to adapt in time.
Climate change is changing the places we love. These changes are only going to become more significant if we don’t take global action. I hope that the increasing numbers of people I see out on these lakes each year creates more awareness and urgency.