Northern expansion is not compensating for southern declines in North American boreal forests

Ronny Rotbarth*, Egbert H. van Nes, Marten Scheffer, Jane Uhd Jepsen, Ole Petter Laksforsmo Vindstad, Chi Xu, Milena Holmgren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Climate change is expected to shift the boreal biome northward through expansion at the northern and contraction at the southern boundary respectively. However, biome-scale evidence of such a shift is rare. Here, we used remotely-sensed tree cover data to quantify temporal changes across the North American boreal biome from 2000 to 2019. We reveal a strong north-south asymmetry in tree cover change, coupled with a range shrinkage of tree cover distributions. We found no evidence for tree cover expansion in the northern biome, while tree cover increased markedly in the core of the biome range. By contrast, tree cover declined along the southern biome boundary, where losses were related largely to wildfires and timber logging. We show that these contrasting trends are structural indicators for a possible onset of a biome contraction which may lead to long-term carbon declines.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3373
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Volume14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2023

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