The Edge: A tool for understanding the impacts of climate change on B.C. forest operations

by | Jan 1, 2023 | 2023, January/February, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, The Edge

Climate Change

Climate change is not a future problem: due to rising greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting changing climate, communities in British Columbia today are experiencing shifting and extreme temperature and precipitation patterns that are affecting their residents’ personal health, sense of security, economy, and the environment they live in.

 

Industrial activities, including forestry operations, are not immune to these changes (source: https://retooling.ca/climate-change/risks-and-impacts-on-bc/).

To help forest contractors from B.C. understand the impact of climate changes on their operations and provide adaptation measure options, FPInnovations’ Transportation and Infrastructure group, with the support of the B.C. Ministry of Forests, has launched the Climate Vulnerability Forest Management (CVFM) tool.

Helping forestry professionals identify how climate change may affect forest operations in British Columbia

The CVFM tool shows the historical and projected trends for climate indicators identified to be most related to climate events that impact forest operations. The tool graphically highlights differences in climate indicators between regions, lists which climate indicators are linked to forest operations activities, and provides examples of adaptive changes to forest operations.

The tool summarizes climate change information that is most relevant to B.C. forestry operations. Intended to inform development of climate change adaptation plans and policies, the tool has two components:

  1. Climate Change Maps: Historical and projection period climate change maps for six types of climate events to which forest operations are vulnerable; and
  2. Adaptation within Forestry: A list of the types of forest operations that are vulnerable to climate events, along with examples of various types of adaptation measures used by B.C. forest operations.

The project involved processing datasets created by Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, organizing FPInnovations-led workshops around B.C., leveraging past FPInnovations experiences in approaching climate assessments, and working with the highest-resolution climate model outputs available.

FPInnovations is also able to provide members raw or processed climate model output data for other provinces and help in the identification and optimization of possible adaptations.

Using the CVFM tool for vulnerability assessments and decisions

A central part of a vulnerability assessment is stakeholder engagement. Accordingly, the CVFM tool leverages three B.C. regional workshops held in 2021 to identify important information in terms of climate events and impacts to forest operations. In this way, the CVFM tool prioritizes existing experience that may be useful to interpret future local-scale engagement.

Combining information about the climate change maps presented with local knowledge of forest operation vulnerability along with possible assistance from the Adaptation in Forestry section can result in an informed vulnerability assessment. The CVFM tool results can be integrated into larger vulnerability assessments or simpler ones, based on professional judgement.

Because using the CVFM tool has no defined sequence, it can support variations of vulnerability assessments which might involve:

  • Establishing climate events of most concern in the future for a forest operation area;
  • Systematically linking changes in vulnerability of forest operations activities to change indicator(s);
  • Combining climate event uncertainty and delta estimates with severity of consequences by multiplying the two rankings (vulnerability=delta*consequences) to create a prioritization matrix;
  • Using the data downloads of climate indicator summaries (in the appendix section) to quantify regional change;
  • Using certainty-level information in the climate indicator maps as a means to prioritize adaptation of one region over another; and
  • Drawing from trends summarized in adaptations for the three B.C. regions to identify priorities for types of adaptation.

Helping mitigate climate change

Climate change will impact B.C. regions differently, and the consideration of local and regional contexts for climate resilience planning and preparedness is crucial.

The CVFM tool was designed to help B.C. forest operators in managing their activities. Its contents will be maintained and updated as climate models develop, understanding of climate science improves, and feedback from users of the tool is received.

The tool is publicly available and there is no cost to use it. For more information or to access the tool, visit FPInnovations’ blog post (web.fpinnovations.ca/a-tool-for-understanding-climate-change-impacts-on-british-columbia-forest-operations/).

For more information, contact Matt Kurowski, research engineer in FPInnovations’ Transportation and Infrastructure group, at matt.kurowski@fpinnovations.ca.


CWFC R&D sites show how various intensive plantation management approaches can yield predictable—and often better—outcomes

Climate ChangeForest regeneration outcomes, insofar as growth and yield and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potential is concerned, are fairly predictable over time if a forest is left to regenerate on its own on naturally disturbed land, such as after a wildfire or if standard reforestation practices are applied as part of forest management practices, for example, by forest companies.

Small mound 1982, container white spruce planted 1983 and mechanical gyro-mowing above spruce 1988; 1466 spruce stems/ha, 40 years-old, 12 years to 1.3 m height, 176 cubic metres/ha, 20/80 spruce/poplar mix.

However, as we contemplate plantation establishment going forward—to achieve a sustainable wood fibre supply, adapting to a changing climate, or perhaps through participation in the federal government’s Two Billion Tree Program—practitioners have the opportunity to consider other novel management regimes representing a range of intensity and inputs, to deliver specific and custom outcomes.

The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) can assist in this regard whether a forest plantation is being established within the natural forest or on afforested sites where trees have not been established for several decades. CWFC manages a network of regeneration and afforestation legacy and technical development sites across Canada where various intensive management techniques and tools have been applied, to the point where the plantations have evolved over several decades and where CWFC can show and verify outcomes. These include potential growth trajectory enhancements, growth and yield outcomes as well as maximizing GHG reduction potential.

Climate ChangeSmall mound 1982, container white spruce planted 1983 and selective brush-saw hardwood shrub and tree removal from 1.5 m from spruce 1992; 1510 spruce stems/ha, 40 years-old, 8 years to 1.3 m height, 188 cubic metres/ha, 50/50 spruce/poplar mix.

The three mixedwood boreal plantation examples shown here were established within a relatively similar time frame and site-prepared using the same technique which was systematic scalp/small mound, followed by hand planting of 40 cc container white spruce seedlings.

The images from the plantation sites show three variations in present results, all established on similar initial sites, but with distinct management practices deployed post-planting. These are all boreal plains mixedwood forest sites established in the early 1980s. As noted in the captions, each treatment combination resulted in a different forest makeup, but with relatively similar volume production and related carbon budgets.

Initially, the plantations established (survival and height growth) at different rates, or years post-planting, to 1.3 m height, ranging from 8 to 12 years. Naturally regenerating softwoods on this forest site would normally establish to 1.3 m in 20 to 30 years. Tending and vegetation management treatments deployed using broadcast and selective patterns were completed on different sites using chemical and mechanical methods. This influenced the remaining stand compositions, which now—at Year 40 post-planting—show different mixes of white spruce and aspen and/or poplar.

Climate ChangeSmall mound 1982, container white spruce planted 1983 and broadcast ground application of glyphosate (3L/ha) 1985; 1533 spruce stems/ha, 40 years-old , 9 years to 1.3 m height, 192 cubic metres/ha, 90/10 spruce/poplar mix.

The resulting stand complexes have various values depending on management objectives which could be softwood lumber, pulp, habitat diversity, risk reduction from wildfire or forest insects, GHG emission reduction or water management.

These examples provide practitioners with alternative plantation management options depending on their desired outcomes, particularly as we aim for a sustainable wood fibre supply while maximizing GHG reduction potential, as well as other aspects of addressing a changing climate. Mixedwood sites of this nature have approximately 1 tonne of CO2 equivalent per cubic metre of volume in above ground tree stem biomass. Future The Edge articles will pursue this subject further.

For more information about techniques used on these legacy and technical developments sites, please contact Derek Sidders at derek.sidders@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca or Tim Keddy at tim.keddy@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca.

Tony Kryzanowski

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