The lack of snow cover due to warmer winters could have a major impact on forest ecosystems, stunting forest growth in summer time temperatures, according to researchers at the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE).
The study, led by LUKE scientists Francoise Martz and Pasi Rautio, suggests that of these predicted changes of winter warming, ice encasement appeared to be the most harmful winter conditions to Scots pine and Norway spruce seedlings.
These effects could influence forest regeneration with important implications for boreal forest ecology and the associated economy such as forest regeneration costs.
“So far, models forecasting growth and productivity of boreal forest under climate change scenarios only consider changing conditions during the growing season,” they said. “Our results indicate that the possible consequences of winter climate change should be taken into consideration in these models.”
Other effects of a warmer winter on boreal forests include increased ground ice encasement, snow compaction or complete lack of snow cover.