Projected changes in climate conditions vary widely across Canada's 350 M ha of forests, and so does the capacity of forest species to cope with these changes (sensitivity). Development and prioritization of adaptation strategies for sustainable forest management will depend on integrated assessments of relative stand vulnerability. We developed species‐specific indices of sensitivity to (1) drought‐induced mortality and (2) migration failure, based on traits for 22 of the most abundant tree species in Canada. By combining this information with stand composition data and spatially explicit climate change projections, we were able to map Canadian forest vulnerability to drought and migration failure. Our maps show forest vulnerability changing rapidly under a high carbon emission scenario (RCP 8.5) between short‐ (2011–2040), medium‐ (2041–2070), and long‐term projections (2071–2100). Several zones of special concern emerged based on the biomass involved, stand sensitivity, and vulnerability trends across time. Boreal forests in the central regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan appeared most vulnerable to drought‐induced mortality in the mid to long term. In the short term, distance to suitable habitat is projected to shift quickly along latitudinal gradients, particularly in Central Canada, while zones of vulnerability to migration failure appeared across the Rockies region in the long term as suitable conditions disappear from mountainous areas. This spatial assessment of vulnerability, which integrates species‐specific sensitivity, highlights important regional contrasts between vulnerability to drought (from high exposure, high proportion of sensitive species, or both) and to migration failure. By affecting either species’ ability to persist in place or to migrate, different climate change impacts can yield distinct biotic responses, with important implications for regional climate change adaptation strategies. Multi‐faceted vulnerability assessments, integrating both exposure and sensitivity indices specific to expected impacts of climate change, have the potential to provide crucial information to managers. We discuss some of these implications, explore the current limitations of our approach, and suggest a path forward.
Ecosphere – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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