Landscape Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 7, pp 1415–1431 | Cite as

Climate change impacts on forest landscapes along the Canadian southern boreal forest transition zone

  • Yan BoulangerEmail author
  • Anthony R. Taylor
  • David T. Price
  • Dominic Cyr
  • Elizabeth McGarrigle
  • Werner Rammer
  • Guillaume Sainte-Marie
  • André Beaudoin
  • Luc Guindon
  • Nicolas Mansuy
Research Article



Forest landscapes at the southern boreal forest transition zone are likely to undergo great alterations due to projected changes in regional climate.


We projected changes in forest landscapes resulting from four climate scenarios (baseline, RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5), by simulating changes in tree growth and disturbances at the southern edge of Canada’s boreal zone.


Projections were performed for four regions located on an east–west gradient using a forest landscape model (LANDIS-II) parameterized using a forest patch model (PICUS).


Climate-induced changes in the competitiveness of dominant tree species due to changes in potential growth, and substantial intensification of the fire regime, appear likely to combine in driving major changes in boreal forest landscapes. Resulting cumulative impacts on forest ecosystems would be manifold but key changes would include (i) a strong decrease in the biomass of the dominant boreal species, especially mid- to late-successional conifers; (ii) increases in abundance of some temperate species able to colonize disturbed areas in a warmer climate; (iii) increases in the proportions of pioneer and fire-adapted species in these landscapes and (iv) an overall decrease in productivity and total biomass. The greatest changes would occur under the RCP 8.5 radiative forcing scenario, but some impacts can be expected even with RCP 2.6.


Western boreal forests, i.e., those bordering the prairies, are the most vulnerable because of a lack of species adapted to warmer climates and major increases in areas burned. Conservation and forest management planning within the southern boreal transition zone should consider both disturbance- and climate-induced changes in forest communities.


Climate change LANDIS-II PICUS Boreal forest Canada 



Special thanks go to Hong He, Jacob Fraser, WenJi Wang, Brice Hanberry, Brian Miranda and Robert Scheller for their help regarding the LANDIS-II model. We thank Manfred J. Lexer for kindly providing us access and assistance with the use of their model, PICUS. We would also like to thank Philippe Villemaire for his GIS support and Pamela Cheers for revising the wording. This study was funded by Natural Resources Canada. Brad Pinno and two anonymous reviewers provided useful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10980_2016_421_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.5 mb)
Supplementary materials S1, S2, S4, S6−S9 (DOCX 1499 kb)
10980_2016_421_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (739 kb)
Supplementary material S3 (PDF 739 kb)
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Supplementary material S5a (PDF 1861 kb)
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Supplementary material S5b (PDF 1869 kb)
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Supplementary material S5c (DOCX 946 kb)
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Supplementary material S5d (PDF 995 kb)
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Supplementary material S5e (PDF 1270 kb)
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Supplementary material S5f (PDF 1331 kb)
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Supplementary material S5g (PDF 1162 kb)


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yan Boulanger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anthony R. Taylor
    • 2
  • David T. Price
    • 3
  • Dominic Cyr
    • 1
  • Elizabeth McGarrigle
    • 2
  • Werner Rammer
    • 4
  • Guillaume Sainte-Marie
    • 5
  • André Beaudoin
    • 1
  • Luc Guindon
    • 1
  • Nicolas Mansuy
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Resources CanadaCanadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry CentreQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Natural Resources CanadaCanadian Forest Service, Atlantic Forestry CentreFrederictonCanada
  3. 3.Natural Resources CanadaCanadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry CentreEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, BOKU, Institute of Silviculture (Institut für Waldbau)University of Natural Resources and Life SciencesViennaAustria
  5. 5.Département des Sciences BiologiquesUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

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