Canadian Forest Service Publications

Assessing potential biophysical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change on forest-based communities: a methodological case study. 2008. Williamson, T.B.; Price, D.T.; Beverly, J.; Bothwell, P.M.; Frenkel, B.; Park, J.; Patriquin, M.N. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Northern Forestry Centre, Edmonton, Alberta. Information Report NOR-X-415E. 136 p.

Year: 2008

Available from: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 29156

Language: English

Series: Information Report (NoFC - Edmonton)

CFS Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (download)


This report presents methods for assessing the potential biophysical and socioeconomic impacts of climate change at scales relevant to forest-based communities. The methods are tested and demonstrated by estimating such impacts for the community of Vanderhoof, British Columbia. First, spatially referenced climate histories and climate scenarios are developed for a 200 km × 200 km study area surrounding Vanderhoof. Second, these climate data are linked to new models and methods for projecting changes in productivity, species, and wildfire risk under conditions of climate change. Third, methods for linking changes in productivity to potential changes in harvest rate and then to potential changes in aggregate household income are developed and applied. Finally, an approach for linking, presenting, and comparing the results from the various methods is presented. This approach takes account of both climate change and parallel socioeconomic changes occurring in a community’s external environment and acknowledges the inherent uncertainty in climate and socioeconomic scenarios. The approach is based on the development of multitiered scenario radar maps, which are then compressed into a single radar map providing a concise summary of potential climate impacts on a particular community. The assessment of community vulnerability tends to be specific to a particular location. Nevertheless, the Vanderhoof case study highlights areas where forest-based communities may be uniquely exposed, sensitive, and therefore potentially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate change may increase fire risk in forests surrounding communities. It is also likely to affect timber supplies (positively, negatively, or both), thereby causing changes in local economic activity and increasing instability and uncertainty. Moreover, these responses may be variable and nonlinear over time. The Vanderhoof experience with the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) shows that climate change has the potential to affect natural capital near other forestbased communities. Reduction of the natural capital asset base supporting any community will ultimately result in negative socioeconomic impacts. Governments (municipal, provincial, and federal) could use the approaches described here to identify locations where natural capital is at greatest risk. This information is needed to develop strategies for either protecting existing natural capital, replacing lost capital, or transforming exposed natural capital to alternative types of assets that are less sensitive to climate change.

Also available under the title:
Évaluation des répercussions biophysiques et socioéconomiques potentielles du changement climatique sur les collectivités axées sur les ressources forestières : une étude de cas méthodologique. (French)

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