Changes in boreal climate of the magnitude projected for the 21st century have always caused vegetation changes large enough to be societally important. However, the rates and patterns of vegetation change are difficult to predict. We review evidence suggesting that these vegetation changes may be gradual at the northern forest limit or where seed dispersal limits species distribution. However, forest composition may be quite resilient to climate change in the central portions of a species range until some threshold is surpassed. At this point, changes can be rapid and unexpected, often causing a switch to very different ecosystem types. Many of these triggers for change are amenable to management, suggesting that our choice of policies in the coming decades will substantially influence the ecological and societal consequences of current climatic change.
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Vol. 33 • No. 6