Climate change endangers forests around the world

Therefore, in the future, it will be necessary to expect rising risks for economic forests and a negative impact on the services provided by companies. “Climate change is creating huge challenges for forests, and the forestry sector will have to adapt to it, even if it seems impossible to completely prevent calamities,” say the authors of the study. One method, for example, is a greater emphasis on growing mixed forests composed of more tree species. “It is also important to realize that large-scale disruptions have been and are a natural and irreplaceable part of the dynamics of natural forests, and they cannot therefore only be perceived negatively, in particular in forests where the priority is preservation of nature and the demonstration of natural processes without the influence of man, e.g. in national parks and national reserves,” add prof. Ing. Miloslav Svoboda, Ph.D., and doc. Ing. Jan Wild, Ph.D.

A study by scientists from ten European countries, including three CULS experts, analysed over 1,600 scientific publications in order to find dependence between large-scale forest damage and climatic factors (such as rising temperatures or droughts).

The results of the study clearly show that the risks associated with, for example, the occurrence of large fires or overpopulation of under-bark insects will increase as a result of climate change. A typical example is the higher intensity of forest fires in North America and Russia. In the conditions of Central Europe (and therefore the Czech Republic), the main dangers for economic forest are gale and under-bark insects (for example the European spruce bark beetle). Unfortunately, the Czech Republic represents clear proof of these findings. According to data from the Forestry and Game Management Research Institute, 4.3 million m3 of primarily spruce timber attacked by under-bark insects was processed in 2016. This quantity represents one quarter of the total amount of wood that is harvested each year in the Czech Republic. This unplanned timber harvesting has a negative impact on an entire range of functions that forests provide to our society. In addition to the permanent production of renewable raw materials (wood), this concerns, for example, the protection of soil and water resources, or the depreciation of the landscape for recreational and tourism purposes.

“The published analysis clearly shows that climate change is already exceeding the possibilities of utilized economic practices, and this is a huge challenge for the forestry industry. The forestry sector will have to adapt to it, even though the dynamics of climate change do not allow for the prevention of large-scale forest damage,” say the authors of the study. One possibility is the planting of mixed forests (consisting of multiple tree species) using more natural methods such as natural regeneration. Unlike spruce monocultures that are currently dealing with drought and the European spruce bark beetle, economic forests with diversified species are more resistant and less susceptible to calamities.

This development also has serious economic impacts in the form of the need to spend hundreds of millions of crowns on defensive measures in state forests. The production of large amounts of calamity wood also reduces its prices, and thereby also contributions from state forests to the state budget. The entire process is significantly outside the scope of historical experience and raises questions that are difficult to find answers to. Therefore, as part of projects focusing on under-bark insect research or changes in economic activities in relation to climate change (e.g. EXTEMIT-K), scientists at the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences are looking for ways to reduce the negative impact of climate change on our forests in the future.