Beneficial effects of climate warming on boreal
tree growth may be transitory.
Loïc D'orangeville, Daniel Houle, Louis Duchesne, Richard P. Philips, Yves Bergeron, Daniel Kneeshaw.
Predicted increases in temperature and aridity across the boreal forest region have the potential to alter timber supply and carbon sequestration. Given the widely-observed variation in species sensitivity to climate, there is an urgent need to develop species-specific predictive models that can account for local conditions. Here, we matched the growth of 270,000 trees across a 761,100?km2 region with detailed site-level data to quantify the growth responses of the seven most common boreal tree species in Eastern Canada to changes in climate. Accounting for spatially-explicit species-specific responses, we find that while 2?°C of warming may increase overall forest productivity by 13?±?3% (mean?±?SE) in the absence of disturbance, additional warming could reverse this trend and lead to substantial declines exacerbated by reductions in water availability. Our results confirm the transitory nature of warming-induced growth benefits in the boreal forest and highlight the vulnerability of the ecosystem to excess warming and drying.