Dominique Arseneault


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Increasing fire and the decline of fire adapted black spruce in the boreal forest
Jennifer L. Baltzer, Nicola J. Day, Xanthe J. Walker, David F. Greene, Michelle C. Mack, Heather D. Alexander, Dominique Arseneault, Jennifer L. Barnes, Yves Bergeron, Yan Boucher, Laura Bourgeau‐Chavez, Clifford M. Brown, Suzanne Carrière, Brian K. Howard, Stéphane Gauthier, Marc‐André Parisien, Kirsten A. Reid, Brendan M. Rogers, Carl A. Roland, Luc Sirois, Sarah E. Stehn, Dan K. Thompson, M. R. Turetsky, Sander Veraverbeke, Ellen Whitman, Jian Yang, J. F. Johnstone
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume 118, Issue 45

Intensifying wildfire activity and climate change can drive rapid forest compositional shifts. In boreal North America, black spruce shapes forest flammability and depends on fire for regeneration. This relationship has helped black spruce maintain its dominance through much of the Holocene. However, with climate change and more frequent and severe fires, shifts away from black spruce dominance to broadleaf or pine species are emerging, with implications for ecosystem functions including carbon sequestration, water and energy fluxes, and wildlife habitat. Here, we predict that such reductions in black spruce after fire may already be widespread given current trends in climate and fire. To test this, we synthesize data from 1,538 field sites across boreal North America to evaluate compositional changes in tree species following 58 recent fires (1989 to 2014). While black spruce was resilient following most fires (62%), loss of resilience was common, and spruce regeneration failed completely in 18% of 1,140 black spruce sites. In contrast, postfire regeneration never failed in forests dominated by jack pine, which also possesses an aerial seed bank, or broad-leaved trees. More complete combustion of the soil organic layer, which often occurs in better-drained landscape positions and in dryer duff, promoted compositional changes throughout boreal North America. Forests in western North America, however, were more vulnerable to change due to greater long-term climate moisture deficits. While we find considerable remaining resilience in black spruce forests, predicted increases in climate moisture deficits and fire activity will erode this resilience, pushing the system toward a tipping point that has not been crossed in several thousand years.


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Climate‐change refugia in boreal North America: what, where, and for how long?
Diana Stralberg, Dominique Arseneault, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Quinn E. Barber, Erin M. Bayne, Yan Boulanger, Clifford M. Brown, Hilary A. Cooke, K. J. Devito, Jason E. Edwards, César A. Estevo, Nadele Flynn, Lee E. Frelich, Edward H. Hogg, Mark Johnston, Travis Logan, Steven M. Matsuoka, Paul A. Moore, Toni Lyn Morelli, Jacques Morissette, Elizabeth A. Nelson, Hedvig K. Nenzén, Scott E. Nielsen, Marc André Parisien, John H. Pedlar, David T. Price, Fiona K. A. Schmiegelow, Stuart M. Slattery, Oliver Sonnentag, Daniel K. Thompson, Ellen Whitman
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Volume 18, Issue 5

H latitude regions around the world are experiencing particularly rapid climate change. These regions include the 625 million ha North American boreal region, which contains 16% of the world’s forests and plays a major role in the global carbon cycle (Brandt et al. 2013). Boreal ecosystems are particularly susceptible to rapid climatedriven vegetation change initiated by standreplacing natural disturbances (notably fires), which have increased in number, extent, and frequency (Kasischke and Turetsky 2006; Hanes et al. 2018) and are expected to continue under future climate change (Boulanger et al. 2014). Such disturbances will increasingly complicate species persistence, and it will therefore be critical to identify locations of possible climatechange refugia (areas “relatively buffered from contemporary climate change”) (Morelli et al. 2016). These “slow lanes” for biodiversity will be especially important for conservation and management of boreal species and ecosystems (Morelli et al. 2020). Practically speaking, the refugia concept can translate into specific sites or regions that are expected to be more resistant to the influence of climate change than other areas (“in situ refugia”; Ashcroft 2010). Refugia may also encompass sites or regions to which species may more readily retreat as climate conditions change (“ex situ refugia”; Ashcroft 2010; Keppel et al. 2012), as well as temporary “stepping stones” (Hannah et al. 2014) linking current and future habitats. In addition to areas that are climatically buffered, fire refugia – “places that are disturbed less frequently or less severely by wildfire” (Krawchuk et al. 2016) – may also play key roles in promoting ecosystem persistence under changing conditions (Meddens et al. 2018). Previous examinations of climatechange refugia have primarily emphasized external, terrainmediated mechanisms. Factors such as topographic shading and temperature inverClimatechange refugia in boreal North America: what, where, and for how long?


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Potential impacts of climate change on the habitat of boreal woodland caribou
Quinn E. Barber, Marc‐André Parisien, Ellen Whitman, Diana Stralberg, Chris J. Johnson, Martin‐Hugues St‐Laurent, Evan R. DeLancey, David T. Price, Dominique Arseneault, Xianli Wang, Mike D. Flannigan
Ecosphere, Volume 9, Issue 10

Boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are currently listed as threatened in Canada, with populations in the province of Alberta expected to decline as much as 50 percent over the next 8–15 yr. We assessed the future of caribou habitat across a region of northeast Alberta using a model of habitat-quality and projections of future climate from three general circulation models. We used mapped climatic and topo-edaphic properties to project future upland vegetation cover and a fire simulation model to project the frequency and extent of wildfires. Based on those projections, we quantified the future habitat of caribou according to estimates of nutritional resources and predation risk derived from vegetation cover type and stand age. Grassland vegetation covered up to half of the study area by the 2080s, expanding from >1% in the present and contributing to a significant contraction in mixedwood and coniferous forests. This change in vegetation would increase the risk of predation and disease, as habitat becomes more suitable for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and, consequently, gray wolves (Canis lupus). Borne out, these changes would severely compromise the long-term persistence of caribou in the boreal forest of Alberta.