March 23, 2014

Global Warming and northern mushrooms

The continued impact of global warming on future distribution of species is a subject of great concern. A recently published study, Changements climatiques et biodiversité au Québec (Climate change and biodiversity in Québec) by Dominique Berteaux et al. makes use of the most up-to-date models and observed trends of the last few decades to simulate regional evolution of fauna and flora through to 2080.

The authors expect a rise in average yearly temperatures of anywhere between 1.9oC and 8.2oC as compared to the period between1961 and  1990.The change will impact north western Québec more than south western areas, and will be greater in winter than in summer. Precipitations will be on the rise all year round up north, whereas the change will be noticeable only during winter in the south-west.

An important caveat, the degree-days of vegetation growth (average number of degrees over 5oC per day) will only rise significantly in the south-west. Montréal`s climate may well be similar to that of Washington D.C. today and local isotherm will move 240 km north.

No word about mushrooms is mentioned in the publication; however, because fungal saprophytes, parasites and symbionts live hand in hand with their tree hosts, we can extrapolate what will happen to fungi based on the predictions for vegetation and precipitation. When oak groves extend northward to the Abitibi-Temiskaming region, delicious hen-of-the-woods (Grifola frondosa) and spectacular chicken-of-the-woods (Polyporus sulfureus) will flourish there.

Lucky pickers will also be able to find rare indigenous truffles (Tuber canaliculatum and T. lyonii); and growing precious black truffles (T. melanosporum) will become feasible around Montréal. The elusive morels will likely appear three weeks earlier. Harvesting will begin sooner in spring for some species and extend later in autumn for others.

Average size of southern harvests will likely not change significantly though because summer precipitation will benefit only on the northern tip of Québec.

On a apparently encouraging final note, animal and plant diversity is projected to increase in Québec, contrary to what is forecast in other parts of the world. Mushrooms species will be more varied and the foraging season will be several weeks longer. 

Return to Blog