Climate Change Impacts

Key projected climate change impacts that the project team considered for the Petawawa Research Forest include: 

  • Increasing summer moisture stress due to drought and the increased potential for wildfire concerns;
  • More irregular seed production necessitating a reduced reliance on natural regeneration;
  • Increased frequency of snow and ice storms leading to crown damage and snow loading on seedlings; 
  • Warmer winter temperatures and increased evapotranspiration; and
  • Rain on snow events leading to rapid snow melt and fluctuating water tables. 
Foresters tour the PRF ASCC site and learn about local climate change impacts.
Foresters tour the PRF ASCC site and learn about local climate change impacts; Photo Credit: Courtney Peterson, CSU 

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of the Petawawa Research Forest, including: 

Challenges

  • Important forest types to the PRF, including white pine, red pine, oak, and hardwood forest units will be exposed to increased drought stress, which could slow growth of established trees and increase mortality in regeneration; 
  • Changes in seasonality and shorter, milder winters could lead to challenges with the timing of vegetation management and harvest; 
  • Infrastructure on the PRF could be taxed by large storm events and heavy rains; and 
  • Changes in precipitation patterns and increased drought could increase stress and lead to increases in losses from forest insects, diseases, and wildfire.

Opportunities

  • Warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons could potentially increase tree productivity and enhance timber production; 
  • White pine, the most dominant and economically-important tree species at the PRF, is generally expected to fare well under future climate conditions; and 
  • Some tree species currently found on-site are expected to have increased habitat suitability, including red oak, which may create opportunities to diversify forest composition and forest product offerings.