New study on boreal forests and climate change

Air Pollution and Climate Secretariat (AirClim), in cooperation with Taiga Rescue Network (TRN) published a study, saying that the boreal forests will not be able to respond to global warming by migrating northwards. Massive forest dieback is a more likely scenario.

A Boreal forest. photo: recordworld.ruA Boreal forest. photo: recordworld.ruA diagram from the report, showing area burned in Russia 1980-2005A diagram from the report, showing area burned in Russia 1980-2005Boreal forests are the northernmost forests in the world, composing a belt around the Northern Hemispehre.

According to the authors of the study, the matter should be a matter of utmost concern, not only because of the consequences for people living in the boreal region and for biodiversity, but also because deterioration of boreal forests would have severe feedback effects on global climate.

Boreal forest belt contains about one third of the world´s vegetative carbon, and the same amount again of soil carbon. Whether or not this carbon stock can be maintained is not a matter of forest management, since half of the boreal forest belt consists of remote primary forests.

If global warming exceeds 2 degrees C vast areas of boreal forest may be transformed into open woodland or grassland. Large-scale boreal forest dieback has been identified as one of the critical tipping points in global change, through which positive feedback effects on the climate may cause runaway warming through the release of most of the enormous boreal carbon stock into the atmosphere.

The results of the study outlines the urgency of the new post-Kyoto climate agreement, which should be made in Copenhagen.

A recent appeal by Russian NGOs to Russian President and Government, adopted ( LINK ) by participants of a conference of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union, which took place 13-14 November in St Petersburg, says, that measures to protect boreal forests should be in the list of priorities of climate policy and mitigation measures.

The AirClim study can be downloaded using this link.