Burned trees are shown in Fort McMurray, Alta., in a May 13, 2016, file photo. A new study shows half of Alberta’s boreal forest could disappear by 2100 due to wildfires and climate change.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Half Alberta’s boreal forest could disappear due to fires and climate change

A new study shows half of Alberta’s boreal forest could disappear by 2100 due to wildfires and climate change.

A study shows half of Alberta’s boreal forest could disappear in just over 80 years due to wildfires and climate change.

The research, published Monday in the journal Ecosphere, gives a glimpse at how vegetation could change based on the current rate of carbon emissions and climate change.

“We found that wildfire could initiate the conversion of approximately 50 per cent of the current boreal forest into grassland or deciduous open forest,” said Diana Stralberg, who did the research as part of her PhD in the biological sciences department at the University of Alberta.

“If you look at even more extreme assumptions about future wildfire, you would get something closer to 75 per cent conversion.”

The study simulated wildfire using a model from Natural Resources Canada and data from the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute to determine what vegetation might grow back under future climates.

Marc-Andre Parisien, a fire research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said the potential for change is strong.

“Trees are very stubborn,” he said. “Trees tend to want to persist and stay where they are, even though the climate in which they are living is not really suitable any more.

“To really change that vegetation type from a certain kind of forest to something else, you have to kill the trees — whether it’s a chainsaw or a fire or an insect or a flood.”

Parisien, a co-author on the study, said the research looked at changes based on the potential for more wildfire in the coming years.

“We’re integrating a little bit more realism by allowing the vegetation to change after a major disturbance — in this case wildfire,” he said.

Related: 14,000 evacuated due to B.C. wildfires

He noted that it’s already easy to find a lot of dead trees in and around Edmonton.

“The series of droughts of the 2000s have slammed so many aspen and also so many coniferous trees as well — notably white spruce, the nice trees that we have in our river valley here in Edmonton,” said Parisien.

That points to the city already being in a climate that’s more associated with prairies than forests, he said.

“That’s why trees are dying,” he said. “They just cannot get the moisture they need to persist.”

The research, he said, tells the same story on a much broader scale.

“This climate that has supported forests for millenia is basically going beyond that cusp, beyond that point where it can really support trees on the uplands any more.”

The changes could have major implications for the forestry sector in Alberta, said Parisien.

“If you no longer can have these productive forests on the uplands, there’s going to be a hit to this economy.”

Both he and Stralberg said the changes could also have detrimental effects on wildlife, such as songbirds, and other plants.

“It’s implying pretty major changes on the landscape,” said Stralberg. “I know Albertans are really outdoor, nature-loving people and it really means a different landscape in the future.”

RELATED: B.C. sends wildfire crews to Alberta, Ontario

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Langley soapbox derby draws more competitors

41st annual Soap Box Derby put on by the Langley Evangelical Free Church

Crime Briefs: Stolen church tent, loan fraud and missing chipper

Langley RCMP release photos of suspects and stolen goods

Langley Blaze alum makes MLB debut

‘I have been waiting my whole life for this’ says Maple Ridge’s Tyler O’Neill

It’s going to be a furry tail foot race Sunday, April 29

Langley animal shelter hosts walk/run at Derby Reach Park

Blaze split with A’s in Kelowna

Langley 18U team goes 2-2 to open season despite missing five key players to Team Canada obligations

UPDATED: 9 killed, 16 injured after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

Judith Guichon steps down as Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

Election decision didn’t make her best moments from the past six years

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Protesters argue both sides of B.C.’s SOGI curriculum at teachers’ union office

The sexual orientation and gender identity program was launched as a pilot project last year

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

ICBC reform aims to slow rising car insurance costs

‘Pain and suffering’ payouts to be capped, major injury limit to double

Most Read