Landscape Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 159–174 | Cite as

Climate change will affect the ability of forest management to reduce gaps between current and presettlement forest composition in southeastern Canada

  • Yan BoulangerEmail author
  • Dominique Arseneault
  • Yan Boucher
  • Sylvie Gauthier
  • Dominic Cyr
  • Anthony R. Taylor
  • David T. Price
  • Sébastien Dupuis
Research Article



Forest landscapes at the boreal–temperate ecotone have been extensively altered. Reducing the gap between current and presettlement forest conditions through ecosystem-based forest management (EBFM) is thought to enhance ecological integrity. However, climate change may interfere with this goal and make these targets unrealistic.


We evaluated the impacts of climate change on the ability of EBFM to reduce discrepancies between current and presettlement forest conditions in southeastern Canada.


We used early-land-survey data as well as projections from a forest landscape model (LANDIS-II) under four climate change scenarios and four management scenarios to evaluate future discrepancies between presettlement forest conditions and future forest landscapes.


By triggering swift declines in most late-succession boreal conifer species biomass, climate change would greatly reduce the ability of forest management to reduce the gap with presettlement forest composition, especially under severe anthropogenic climate forcing. Scenarios assuming extensive clearcutting also favor aggressive competitor species that have already increased with high historical harvest levels (e.g., poplars, maples).


EBFM would still be the “less bad” forest harvesting strategy in order to mitigate composition discrepancies with the presettlement forests, though it is likely to fail under severe climate forcing. In this latter case, one might thus question the relevancy of using presettlement forest composition as a target for restoring degraded forest landscapes. As such, we advocate that managers should relax the centrality of the reference condition and focus on functional restoration rather than aiming at reducing the gaps with presettlement forest composition per se.


Mixedwood forest Northern hardwood forests Climate change LANDIS-II Presettlement forests Sustainable forest management 



We thank G. Fortin, R. Terrail, A. deRomer, M. Leroyer for constructing the presettlement forest composition database. This research was funded by the Forest Change project of the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada.

Supplementary material

10980_2018_761_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 3471 kb)


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Copyright information

© Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laurentian Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest ServiceNatural Resources CanadaQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Université du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada
  3. 3.Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et de ParcsQuébecCanada
  4. 4.Atlantic Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest ServiceNatural Resources CanadaFrederictonCanada
  5. 5.Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest ServiceNatural Resources CanadaEdmontonCanada

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