Boreal Forests: Climate Change

Authored by: Pertti Hari

Encyclopedia of Natural Resources

Print publication date:  July  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9781439852583
eBook ISBN: 9781351043847
Adobe ISBN:


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Solar radiation is the source of energy of phenomena taking place in the atmosphere and in forest ecosystems. Absorption either in the atmosphere or at the Earth’s surface converts radiation energy into heat and reflection conveys solar radiation into the space. The properties of the atmosphere have been stable during the last 10,000 years, and consequently, the climate has also been stable after the ice age. Expansion of agriculture into the forests, use of fossil fuels, and industrialization have increased the flow of carbon dioxide and several other gases into the atmosphere, resulting in changes in atmospheric concentrations. The increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (e.g., CO2, CH4, N2O) have reduced the thermal radiation of Earth into space resulting in accumulation of energy in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas concentrations will increase during the twenty-first century and consequently exacerbate the climate change. The metabolism of vegetation and microbes in the soil has reacted and will react to climate change. The increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration has enhanced and will enhance photosynthesis and accelerated decomposition of proteins in the soil due to higher temperatures, which provides an additional source of nitrogen for trees and for ground vegetation. Temperature increase has prolonged and will prolong the photosynthetically active period, increasing the availability of sugars for growth and metabolism. The wood growth responds to the changes in the metabolism and the wood mass in boreal forests is strongly increasing. The changes in the size of carbon pools in the soil of boreal forests are of minor importance. The biomass in the boreal forests will increase and the boreal forests are able to bind about 6% of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

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