Using the results of the vulnerability assessment and stakeholder workshops, the research team designed a research program for each of the three regions and will test one adaptation option per region. The first initiative focuses on enhancing “Resistance” in the Outaouais region, situated near Ottawa. This project revolves around the implementation of commercial thinning practices aimed at bolstering water stress resilience in forest plantations, especially in the context of climate change. The primary objective is to assess the effectiveness of various thinning intensities in mitigating water stress among plantation trees facing drought conditions. In 2023, Jack Pine will be the subject of investigation. In 2024, White Spruce will be included, along with the installation of various measuring instruments to facilitate comprehensive analysis. Notably, White Spruce is the primary tree species planted in Quebec, and this project represents a significant step in genetic enhancement research. The preference for White Spruce research is due to the limited genetic work conducted with Jack Pine, primarily because the planting of Jack Pine in the boreal forest, where growth rates are comparatively slower, has been less common.
The second project, known as the “Resilience” initiative, is situated near Chibougamau within the expansive Boreal Forest, located in the northern reaches of the province. This undertaking delves into the concept of employing mixed-species plantations as a strategic measure to reduce the likelihood of losing silvicultural investments, particularly in regions with elevated fire risk. Led by a dedicated doctoral student from Italy, this project has already commenced, with all experimental sites having undergone harvesting in 2022. Initially, there was a desire to conduct experiments in former wildfire-affected areas, but these locations were not readily available. However, the opportunity presented itself when the forests experienced wildfires in the summer of 2023. Considering this, the decision was made to carry out the experiment in these recently burned sites. Anticipations for the first year include an outwash of nutrients into the soil, and the research will investigate the physiological responses of both tree species involved. The experiment will test the combination of Jack Pine and Black Spruce, alongside Tamarack, a tree species known for its rapid growth. Interestingly, the wildfires have inadvertently benefited this experiment, shedding light on the forest’s regenerative abilities. While prescribed burning is not a common practice, particularly in Quebec, it is more recommended in Sweden.
The third project, based in Gaspésie, is set to focus on the critical theme of “Transition.” It will address the management of tree species composition in both plantations and natural stands by employing enrichment planting and mixed species planting strategies. These approaches, carried out in the context of assisted migration, will follow partial harvests. This multifaceted project encompasses three distinct experiments. The first experiment is centered around the facilitated migration of Red Oak, with an emphasis on rigorously testing various seed sources. Implementation is scheduled for 2025, and this endeavor is conducted in close collaboration with the Cégep de Sainte-Foy, underscoring its academic and practical significance. A grant application through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has also been initiated to support this initiative. The second experiment of the project pertains to enrichment planting. It involves introducing a carefully selected range of three to four broadleaf species and five conifer species into the designated sites. Concurrently, mixed-species planting will be undertaken, although the specific species to be included will be determined at a later stage. Site preparation is set to commence in 2024, with plantation activities scheduled for 2025. This dynamic approach will provide valuable insights into how forest ecosystems respond to increased species diversity. The third experiment in this project revolves around testing mixed species following clear-cutting, encompassing broadleaf and conifer species. This testing initiative aims to validate models predicting the northward migration of species in response to changing climate conditions. The project seeks to bridge the gap between theoretical models and real-world results, thereby contributing to a deeper understanding of forest ecosystem dynamics in the face of climate change.