How has climate change affected the boreal forest?

A team led by a Lakehead U researcher will examine the last 60 years to determine what the future holds

August 10, 2018 – Thunder Bay, ON

Photo of Dr. Han ChenA Lakehead University researcher is receiving more than $440,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to investigate the impact of climate change on the boreal forest.

Thanks to a Strategic Partnership Grant, Dr. Han Chen, a professor in Natural Resources Management, will spend three years working with a team of researchers from Lakehead University, the University of Alberta and the University of Winnipeg to examine how climate change has affected western-central boreal forests in Canada over the last 60 years.

The team will train a number of PhD students who will help explore strategies to mitigate climate change stresses and assess the consequences of climate change on future wood supply.

“The boreal forest is vital to the livelihoods of millions of Canadians. Climate change is warming the boreal region at twice the rate of the global average and also altering precipitation patterns,” Dr. Chen said.

Concentrations of rising atmospheric greenhouse gases are widely recognized as among the greatest threats to the future of forests and the forest-related economy in Canada.

However, it remains unclear how climate change has affected and will continue to affect forests in terms of wood supply.

“There is a lack of knowledge to guide forest managers in mitigating climate change impacts, and that is where we can be of assistance,” Dr. Chen said.

His research team is collaborating with key producers of forest products in western and central Canada. 

“We will collect fresh measurements and use historic data from specific forest plots as well as economic data to assess the extent of forest changes during the past six decades,” Dr. Chen said.

“This data will help us form a model of how the forest could change in the 21st century based on projected climate change scenarios.”

This project will significantly improve understanding of how climate change has affected the western-central boreal forests in the past and present, and inform mitigation strategies for coping with these concerns.



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Lakehead University has approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. Maclean’s 2018 University Rankings place Lakehead University among Canada's Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, as well as first in Total Research Dollars, second for Citations, and third for Scholarships and Bursaries. In 2017, Research Infosource named Lakehead Research University of the Year in its category for the third consecutive year. Visit