Northern boreal forests are characterized by accumulation of accumulation of peat (e.g., known as paludification). The functioning of northern boreal forest species and their capacity to adapt to environmental changes appear to depend on soil conditions. Climate warming is expected to have particularly pronounced effects on paludified boreal ecosystems and can alter current forest species composition and adaptation by changing soil conditions such as moisture, temperature regimes, and soil respiration. In this paper, we review and synthesize results from various reported studies (i.e., 88 research articles cited hereafter) to assess the effects of climatic warming on soil conditions of paludified forests in North America. Predictions that global warming may increase the decomposition rate must be considered in combination with its impact on soil moisture, which appears to be a limiting factor. Local adaptation or acclimation to current climatic conditions is occurring in boreal forests, which is likely to be important for continued ecosystem stability in the context of climate change. The most commonly cited response of boreal forest species to global warming is a northward migration that tracks the climate and soil conditions (e.g., temperature and moisture) to which they are adapted. Yet, some constraints may influence this kind of adaptation, such as water availability, changes in fire regimes, decomposer adaptations, and the dynamic of peat accumulation. In this paper, as a study case, we examined an example of potential effects of climatic warming on future paludification changes in the eastern lowland region of Canada through three different combined hypothetical scenarios based on temperature and precipitation (e.g., unchanged, increase, or decrease). An increase scenario in precipitation will likely favor peat accumulation in boreal forest stands prone to paludification and facilitate forested peatland expansion into upland forest, while decreased or unchanged precipitation combined with an increase in temperature will probably favor succession of forested peatlands to upland boreal forests. Each of the three scenarios were discussed in this study, and consequent silvicultural treatment options were suggested for each scenario to cope with anticipated soil and species changes in the boreal forests. We concluded that, despite the fact boreal soils will not constrain adaptation of boreal forests, some consequences of climatic warming may reduce the ability of certain species to respond to natural disturbances such as pest and disease outbreaks, and extreme weather events.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.