We reviewed the published knowledge on forest succession in the North American boreal biome for its applicability in modelling forest cover change over large extents. At broader scales, forest succession can be viewed as forest cover change over time. Quantitative case studies of forest succession in peer-reviewed literature are reliable sources of information about changes in forest canopy composition. We reviewed the following aspects of forest succession in literature: disturbances; pathways of post-disturbance forest cover change; timing of successional steps; probabilities of post-disturbance forest cover change, and effects of geographic location and ecological site conditions on forest cover change. The results from studies in the literature, which were mostly based on sample plot observations, appeared to be sufficient to describe boreal forest cover change as a generalized discrete-state transition process, with the discrete states denoted by tree species dominance. In this paper, we outline an approach for incorporating published knowledge on forest succession into stochastic simulation models of boreal forest cover change in a standardized manner. We found that the lack of details in the literature on long-term forest succession, particularly on the influence of pre-disturbance forest cover composition, may be limiting factors in parameterizing simulation models. We suggest that the simulation models based on published information can provide a good foundation as null models, which can be further calibrated as detailed quantitative information on forest cover change becomes available. © The Canadian Institute of Forestry/Institut Forestier du Canada. Abstract reproduced by permission.