Resilience of Alaska’s boreal forest to climatic change

Canadian Journal of Forest Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

This paper assesses the resilience of Alaska’s boreal forest system to rapid climatic change. Recent warming is associated with reduced growth of dominant tree species, plant disease and insect outbreaks, warming and thawing of permafrost, drying of lakes, increased wildfire extent, increased postfire recruitment of deciduous trees, and reduced safety of hunters traveling on river ice. These changes have modified key structural features, feedbacks, and interactions in the boreal forest, including reduced effects of upland permafrost on regional hydrology, expansion of boreal forest into tundra, and amplification of climate warming because of reduced albedo (shorter winter season) and carbon release from wildfires. Other temperature-sensitive processes for which no trends have been detected include composition of plant and microbial communities, long-term landscape-scale change in carbon stocks, stream discharge, mammalian population dynamics, and river access and subsistence opportunities for rural indigenous communities. Projections of continued warming suggest that Alaska’s boreal forest will undergo significant functional and structural changes within the next few decades that are unprecedented in the last 6000 years. The impact of these social–ecological changes will depend in part on the extent of landscape reorganization between uplands and lowlands and on policies regulating subsistence opportunities for rural communities.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Resilience of Alaska’s boreal forest to climatic change
Series title Canadian Journal of Forest Research
DOI 10.1139/X10-074
Volume 40
Issue 7
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher National Research Council of Canada
Publisher location Ottawa
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 11 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Canadian Journal of Forest Research
First page 1360
Last page 1370
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N