Simulating effects of climate change on boreal ecosystem carbon pools in central Canada


David T. Price, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre, 5320-122 Street, Edmonton AB, T6H 3S5, Canada. E-mail:


Aim Possible effects of current and future climates on boreal vegetation dynamics and carbon (C) cycling were investigated using the CENTURY 4.0 soil process model and a modified version of the FORSKA2 forest patch model.

Location Eleven climate station locations distributed along a transect across the boreal zone of central Canada.

Methods Both models were driven by detrended long-term monthly climate data. Using a climate change signal derived from the GISS general circulation model (GCM) 2×CO2 equilibrium climate scenario, the output from the two models was then used to compare simulated current and possible future total ecosystem C storage at the climate station locations.

Results After allowing for their different underlying structures, comparison of output from both models showed good agreement with local field data under current climate conditions. CENTURY 4.0 was able to reproduce spatial variation in soil and litter C densities satisfactorily but tended to overestimate biomass productivity. FORSKA2 reproduced aboveground biomass productivity and spatially averaged biomass densities relatively well. Under the GISS 2×CO2 scenario, both models generally predicted small increases in aboveground biomass C density for forest and tundra locations, but CENTURY 4.0 predicted greater decreases in soil and litter pools, for overall decreases in ecosystem C storage in the range 16–19%.

Main conclusions With some caveats, results imply that effects of increased precipitation (as simulated by the GISS GCM) would more than compensate for any negative effects of increased temperature on forest growth. Increased temperature would also increase decomposition rates of soil and litter organic matter, however, for a net overall decrease in total ecosystem C storage.