- Forest Growth Patterns: Forests will be exposed to many new elements as the climate changes. Climate change brings a longer growing season. This offers some advantages, but offers no guarantees that our forests will be more productive. Positive growth in spring may be offset by warmer summers, leading to both increased droughts and floods. With increased drought, the probability of forest fires goes up and lengthens the fire season overall.
- Tree Damage: There is also the potential for more ice storms. Damage from these storms can vary from a single branch to the destruction of entire stands of trees. If an ice storm is followed by a period of drought, the risk of fire goes up. More forest fires and extreme weather events are likely to increase tree mortality.
- Pests: The greatest threat to forests is from insects, pathogens and herbivores – many of which are expected to move northward from more southern areas with the warmer temperatures.
- Forest Ecosystems: While some forest communities are expected to remain intact as they migrate towards more favourable climatic conditions, others are expected to break apart, disrupting beneficial relationships that have developed among forest trees and other species. There may be an increase in the amount of early successional forests and decrease in the amount of late successional forests. Boreal forests, such as those found on Cape Breton Island, may switch to more temperate or mixed forests.
- Monitor: Establish monitoring programs to assess the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems and keystone species such as forest trees.
- Conserve Genetic Diversity: Enhance efforts to preserve the genetic diversity of forest tree species to increase their natural ability to adapt to a changing climate.
- Learn to Manage a Changing Forest: Re-examine forest management practices and adjust according to species vulnerabilities and environmental conditions.
- Stewardship: Encourage sustainable forest management practices and resource use.
- Protect Infrastructure: Relocate or take other measures to protect forest infrastructure (e.g., fire towers) against extreme weather events.