A recently implemented program through the ministry of forests allows foresters to replant cut blocks using trees from a slightly warmer climate in hopes that they will withstand the coming temperature increases. (Submitted)

CLIMATE CHANGE: Reforestation in B.C. adapting for warmer temperatures

Foresters can now replant trees based on climatic regions instead of geographical

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is predicting a 1.5 degree increase in temperature between 2030 and 2052 which will lead to changes in precipitation, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, changes to biodiversity and ecosystems, mass extinction, risks to human health, food security, water supply and economic growth.

But how will climate change impact Revelstoke?

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We will see changes in the forest.

Right now foresters are changing the way they replant cut blocks.

Instead of planting seedlings that are chosen based on geographic location, they are now able to plant trees that came from seeds harvested in a slightly warmer climate.

“In Revelstoke that probably means going downhill,” said Greg O’Neill, climate change adaptation scientist at the Kalamalka Forestry Centre. “So if you are harvesting at 1,200 metres the seed would come from 900 metres.”

Greg O’Neill is a climate change adaptation scientist at the Kalamalka Forestry Centre for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. (Submitted)

Introduced in 2018, with an amendment to the provincial reforestation regulations, the changes boil down to a small tweak in the computer system through which foresters order their saplings: instead of choosing geographical matches, they can order climatic matches.

READ MORE: Climate change spurring new forestry practices: researcher

“By doing this we hope to set trees up for the best possible chance of success in an uncertain climate future,” O’Neill said. He estimates that 308 million trees will be planted in B.C. this year.

Though historical climate change data and predictions for future climate change anticipate as much as a three degree temperature increase in a trees lifetime (60-100 years), O’Neill said the program selects trees that have an optimal temperature is 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the location in which they are planted.

READ MORE: The future of the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation

This allows the trees time to establish themselves, O’Neill said it is the first quarter of their lifetime that they are the most vulnerable.

“The climate is changing somewhere between 10 and 100 times faster than trees can migrate, one generation to the next,” O’Neill said.

At the moment new species are not being introduced, but O’Neill said that the provincial ecologists are working on a project that could see that happen.

READ MORE: Caribou plans could have big consequences for Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation

“We’ve taken trees from all over western North America and planted them all over western North America and we’ve got a really good idea of how they grow when they are moved to new climates or, conversely, when they stay put but the climate changes,” O’Neill said.

This is the first in a series looking at how climate change will impact Revelstoke. Have a question or an idea for what we should write about on this topic? Get in touch with us at editor@revelstoketimesreview.com



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