UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Carbon Cycling, Climate Regulation, and Disturbances in Canadian Forests: Scientific Principles for Management Landry, Jean-Sébastien; Ramankutty, Navin


Canadian forests are often perceived as pristine and among the last remaining wilderness, but the majority of them are officially managed and undergo direct land use, mostly for wood harvest. This land use has modified their functions and properties, often inadvertently (e.g., age structure) but sometimes purposefully (e.g., fire suppression). Based on a review of the literature pertaining to carbon cycling, climate regulation, and disturbances from logging, fire, and insect outbreaks, we propose five scientific principles relevant for Canadian managed forests. Among these, a principle we wish to highlight is the need to properly account for the management-related fossil fuel emissions, because they will affect the global carbon cycle and climate for millennia unless massive atmospheric carbon dioxide removal becomes a reality. We also use these five principles to address questions of current interest to research scientists, forest managers, and policy makers. Our review focusses on total ecosystem carbon storage and various mechanisms through which forests affect climate, in particular albedo and aerosols forcings—including how disturbances influence all these elements—but also touches on other ecosystem goods and services. Our review underscores the importance of conducting >100-year time horizon studies of carbon cycling, climate regulation, and disturbances in Canadian managed forests.

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