Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Boreal forests challenged by global change

21.08.2015

Forest management must adapt in order to ensure that forests stay healthy in a time of unprecedented environmental change.

Management of boreal forests needs greater attention from international policy, argued forestry experts from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Natural Resources Canada, and the University of Helsinki in Finland in a new article published this week in the journal Science. The article, which reviews recent research in the field, is part of a special issue on forests released in advance of the World Forestry Congress in September.

“Boreal forests have the potential to hit a tipping point this century,” says IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program researcher Anatoly Shvidenko. “It is urgent that we place more focus on climate mitigation and adaptation with respect to these forests, and also take a more integrated and balanced view of forests around the world.”

Boreal forests, which sprawl across the northernmost regions of Canada, Russia, Alaska, and Scandinavia, make up about 30% of total forest area on the planet. They play a vital role in the Earth’s climate system by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They are home to a plethora of plants and animals. And they provide resources including substantial amounts of wood for lumber and biofuel production, as well as economic and resource opportunities for local and indigenous people.

At the same time, boreal forests are one of the ecosystems most affected by climate change, with temperatures in the arctic and boreal domains recently warming at rates as high as 0.5°C per decade, and potential future warming of 6 to 11°C over vast northern regions by 2100, according to the IPCC’s most pessimistic scenario, RCP 8.5.

Studies have shown that climate zones in boreal forests are moving northwards ten times faster than the trees’ ability to migrate. Warmer and drier conditions and enhanced variability of climate may have already contributed to increased extent of wildfires, and the spread of outbreaks of dangerous insects. Thawing permafrost poses threats to the hydrological system at the continental scale, as well as the potential of releasing huge amounts of CO2 and methane. Locally, increasing non-forestry industrial development, accompanied by air pollution, soil and water contamination, might reinforce the negative impacts of climate change. Overall, these factors mean that huge areas of boreal forest will be at high risk of impoverishment or change to grassland or shrubland.

“These forests evolved under cold conditions, and we do not know enough about the impacts of warming on their resilience and buffering capacity,” says Shvidenko.

In the article, the researchers call for governments and societies to place greater focus on the health of boreal forests, meaning the forests’ resilience, adaptive capacity, and productivity. Transition to adaptive forest management is an urgent need for securing future sustainable development of boreal forests. They also stress the key role of monitoring and research to continuously assess the state of boreal forests and improve the understanding of feedbacks and interactions in order to decrease the risk of catastrophic tipping points, where the forests switch from being a net sink for CO2 to a major source of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Reference
Gauthier S, Bernier P, Kuuluvainen T, Shvidenko AZ, Schepaschenko DG (2015). Boreal forest health and global change. Science. 21 August 2015. (advance copy available upon request)

Dr. Daisy Brickhill | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.iiasa.ac.at

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>