POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON ECOSYSTEM AND TREE SPECIES DISTRIBUTION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Authors

  • Andreas Hamann,

    1. Centre for Forest Gene Conservation, Department of Forest Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Y 2X8 Canada
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  • Tongli Wang

    1. Centre for Forest Gene Conservation, Department of Forest Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Y 2X8 Canada
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Abstract

A new ecosystem-based climate envelope modeling approach was applied to assess potential climate change impacts on forest communities and tree species. Four orthogonal canonical discriminant functions were used to describe the realized climate space for British Columbia's ecosystems and to model portions of the realized niche space for tree species under current and predicted future climates. This conceptually simple model is capable of predicting species ranges at high spatial resolutions far beyond the study area, including outlying populations and southern range limits for many species. We analyzed how the realized climate space of current ecosystems changes in extent, elevation, and spatial distribution under climate change scenarios and evaluated the implications for potential tree species habitat. Tree species with their northern range limit in British Columbia gain potential habitat at a pace of at least 100 km per decade, common hardwoods appear to be generally unaffected by climate change, and some of the most important conifer species in British Columbia are expected to lose a large portion of their suitable habitat. The extent of spatial redistribution of realized climate space for ecosystems is considerable, with currently important sub-boreal and montane climate regions rapidly disappearing. Local predictions of changes to tree species frequencies were generated as a basis for systematic surveys of biological response to climate change.

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