Climatic Change

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 27-56

First online:

Canadian vegetation sensitivity to projected climatic change at three organizational levels

  • James M. LenihanAffiliated withDepartment of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University
  • , Ronald P. NeilsonAffiliated withPacific Northwest Research Station, U.S.D.A. Forest Service

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The potential equilibrium response of Canadian vegetation under two doubled-CO2 climatic scenarios was investigated at three levels in the vegetation mosaic using the rule-based, Canadian Climate-Vegetation Model (CCVM) and climatic response surfaces. The climatic parameters employed as model drivers (i.e., degree-days, minimum temperature, snowpack, actual evapotranspiration, and soil moisture deficit) have a more direct influence on the distribution of vegetation than those commonly used in equilibrium models. Under both scenarios, CCVM predicted reductions in the extent of the tundra and subarctic woodland formations, a northward shift and some expansion in the distributions of boreal and the temperate forest, and an expansion of the dry woodland and prairie formations that was especially pronounced under one of the scenarios. Results of the response surface analysis suggest the potential for significant changes in the probability of dominance for eight boreal tree species. A dissimilarity coefficient was used to identify forest-types under the future climatic scenarios that were analogous to boreal forest-types derived from cluster analysis of the current probabilities of species dominance. All of the current forest-types persisted under the doubled-CO2 scenarios, but ‘no-analog’ areas were also identified within which an empirically derived threshold of the distance coefficient was exceeded. Maps showing the highest level in the vegetation hierarchy where change was predicted suggest the relative impact of the response under the two climatic scenarios.