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Demand for provisioning ecosystem services as a driver of change in the Canadian boreal zone

Erdozain, Maitane, Freeman, Erika C., Ouellet Dallaire, Camille, Teichert, Sonja, Nelson, Harry W., Creed, Irena F.
Environmental reviews 2019 v.27 no.2 pp. 166-184
climate change, ecosystem services, ecosystems, fossil fuels, governance, issues and policy, metals, minerals, planning, politics, public services and goods, risk, social benefit, water power, wood products, world markets
The Canadian boreal zone provides extractive goods and services (provisioning ecosystem services (PrES)) to domestic and global markets and makes a significant contribution to the Canadian economy. The intensity and location of these extractive activities, however, may positively or negatively affect the availability of other benefits that the Canadian and global society receive from the boreal. Where PrES compete, managing these activities along with their impacts to boreal ecosystems becomes a balancing act between the need for resource extraction and the continued availability of the other benefits from ecosystems. Management measures and policies are more likely to succeed if they are designed with foresight, which means accounting for how demand, a key driver of change in the boreal, may change in the future. To help this process, we present three divergent, yet plausible future scenarios based on the analysis of: (i) the capacity of the boreal to provide wood products, fossil fuels, metals and minerals, and hydropower and other renewables; (ii) past trends (1985–2015) and key events in the demand for these PrES; (iii) the interaction of demand for PrES with other drivers of change to the boreal zone; and (iv) the synergies and trade-offs between PrES. We find that historically and currently the capacity of the boreal to provide these PrES exceeds the amount currently supplied. However, the capacity of different PrES and location of extractive activities are spatially dispersed creating a spatial and temporal patchwork of associated risks to local ecosystem integrity and the supply of non-PrES. In addition, these scenarios suggest that the future of boreal PrES is very uncertain and highly dependent on how other drivers of change (namely governance and geopolitics, societal values and climate change) play out in the future. Given the spatial complexity, we find that the cumulative effect of these drivers (e.g., climate change) will determine what paths unfold for different areas of the boreal, and we conclude that careful consideration and planning must be given to ensure that the balance between PrES and non-PrES is maintained.