The Wabanaki forest has been extensively degraded through centuries of intensive land use and forestry practices. Research shows that the Wabanaki forest is losing its unique composition and undergoing a ” Borealization ” due to widespread intensive forest management favouring single-aged, softwood-dominated forests. Decades, if not centuries, of such forest management, have yielded a forested landscape that is patchy, relatively young, and suffers from a lack of diversity and complex habitats.
Forests are a tool that society can use to sequester carbon on a large scale and mitigate the effects of climate change. A degraded forest, however, cannot securely sequester significant amounts of carbon. Unhealthy forests and forests that lack diversity often act as a source of carbon emissions; they are more vulnerable to insect attacks, drought stress, and other disturbances that cause them to degrade even more rapidly, releasing their stored carbon back into the atmosphere.
A degraded forest’s lack of complexity and diversity reduces its ability to adapt to a changing climate. As the climate in the Wabanaki forest region generally becomes warmer and wetter, so do growing conditions for tree species. Eventually, many cold-tolerant boreal species will no longer find this region hospitable. As climate conditions shift further away from the vulnerable forest species’ historic range of tolerance, they are likely to decline and dissapear. This leaves entire forested ecosystems at risk of converstion and collapse, in addition to risk of a negative feedback loop for carbon emissions and reduced capacity for sequestration and storage.
For additional climate information, look at the Resources section of this example (below).