, Volume 36, Issue 1-2, pp 197-215

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: EXAMPLES FROM RUSSIAN BOREAL FORESTS

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Abstract

The Russian Federation contains approximately 20% of the world's timber resources and more than half of all boreal forests. These forests play a prominent role in environmental protection and economic development at global, national, and local levels, as well as, provide commodities for indigenous people and habitat for a variety of plant and animal species. The response and feedbacks of Russian boreal forests to projected global climate change are expected to be profound. Large shifts in the distribution (up to 19% area reduction) and productivity of boreal forests are implied by scenarios of General Circulation Models (GCMs). Uncertainty regarding the potential distribution and productivity of future boreal forests complicates the development of adaptation strategies for forest establishment, management, harvesting and wood processing. Although a low potential exists for rapid natural adaptation of long-lived, complex boreal forests, recent analyses suggest Russian forest management and utilization strategies should be field tested to assess their potential to assist boreal forests in adaptation to a changing global environment. Current understanding of the vulnerability of Russian forest resources to projected climate change is discussed and examples of possible adaptation measures for Russian forests are presented, including: (1) artificial forestation techniques that can be applied with the advent of failed natural regeneration and to facilitate forest migration northward; (2) silvicultural measures that can influence the species mix to maintain productivity under future climates; (3) identifying forests at risk and developing special management adaptation measures for them; (4) alternative processing and uses of wood and non-wood products from future forests; and (5) potential future infrastructure and transport systems that can be employed as boreal forests shift northward into melting permafrost zones. Current infrastructure and technology can be employed to help Russian boreal forests adapt to projected global environmental change, however many current forest management practices may have to be modified. Application of this technical knowledge can help policymakers identify priorities for climate change adaptation.