Climate change-associated trends in net biomass change are age dependent in western boreal forests of Canada

Han Y.H. Chen, Yong Luo, Peter B. Reich, Eric B. Searle, Shekhar R. Biswas

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The impacts of climate change on forest net biomass change are poorly understood but critical for predicting forest's contribution to the global carbon cycle. Recent studies show climate change-associated net biomass declines in mature forest plots. The representativeness of these plots for regional forests, however, remains uncertain because we lack an assessment of whether climate change impacts differ with forest age. Using data from plots of varying ages from 17 to 210 years, monitored from 1958 to 2011 in western Canada, we found that climate change has little effect on net biomass change in forests ≤ 40 years of age due to increased growth offsetting increased mortality, but has led to large decreases in older forests due to increased mortality accompanying little growth gain. Our analysis highlights the need to incorporate forest age profiles in examining past and projecting future forest responses to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1150-1158
Number of pages9
JournalEcology letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Brian McLaren for his helpful comments; the Forest Management Branch of Alberta Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development, and the Forestry Branch of Saskatchewan Renewable Resources for providing detailed data. This study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (RGPIN-2014-0418) and Lakehead University Research Chair program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS


  • Climate change
  • global warming
  • growth
  • net biomass change
  • tree mortality


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