Forestry in a Changing Climate

New Brunswick has been blessed with a temperate climate that has shaped our renewable forest resource.  Over many generations we have used our ever-evolving knowledge of how forest ecosystems function to derive great benefits from forest management always with a focus on sustainability. Climate change is undoubtedly going to challenge our management practices but there is a saying that there is always opportunity in a crisis. We think these opportunities are worth considering.  

The opportunities reveal themselves when we interpret the term “climate” beyond the meteorological and consider how “climate change” will result in changes in the business and social climate. 

Now, we are not lauding the onset of human induced climate change as an inherently positive thing. It most certainly is not and forestry will be but one of many aspects of business and society to suffer negative consequences. Where we see opportunity is in the required collaboration from forestry interests and conservation proponents to mitigate the impacts on our forest ecology while taking full advantage of the economic opportunities that will accompany more sustainable product choices.  

Some of this may require adaptive management involving selection of trees from areas acclimatized to warmer conditions so that we can adapt commercially important species like spruce and pine rather than abandon them and the habitat they offer species of wildlife adapted to conifer dominant stands. We will want to optimize the land base from which we derive our commercially important species because habitat and ecoservice aspects of forests will also be under threat of compromise by climate change.  Conservation objectives will need to be made precise, just as timber management is, and industry should play a supportive roll in this. 

As an industry there may be a need to rethink our marketing of products as hardwood species proliferate. We will need to continue to invest in research focused on forest protection from new invasive insects and invest in assets to prevent and suppress fires as moisture and temperature patterns shift. 

But fundamentally we need to embrace forest management as an increasingly important tool to mitigating climate change impacts.    

The UN New York Declaration of Forests says that “forests represent one of the largest most cost-effective climate solutions available today.” New Brunswick’s forest industry shares in that belief because keeping forests healthy means more greenhouse gases are stored in trees and soils and furthermore in the products they are transformed into. 

The carbon capture benefits don’t stop at trees and forest products. Wood based building materials, packaging and biofuels can replace fossil fuel based consumer products and commodities, displacing petroleum and plastics for energy and consumer goods.  

This is why Forest NB has embraced Forestry in a Changing Climate as it’s theme for it’s 2020 Industry Forum scheduled for March 12th in Fredericton. We think it is time to have a frank discussion about  promoting forest management  as a means to mitigate climate change while continuing to lead our province to future prosperity.   

Mike Legere, Executive Director of Forest NB