The past summer was very hot and dry in most of the Nordic och Baltic countries, and therefore the effects of climate change have been highlighted. The heat contributed to increased awareness and discussions about a reality we might be facing sooner than expected.
High risk for forest fires and subsequent restrictions for forests operations as well as the impact of severe drought on forests plantations are some of the obvious consequences affecting forests owners, forest machine operators and forest industry.
The forest sector has of course a very important role in mitigation of climate change. SNS has recently presented information material on that subject (read more here). The dual benefits of forests and forestry with both substitution of products based on fossil carbon and further carbon sequestration are emphasized.
Adaption is crucial
Adaptation of forest and forestry to climate change is another important issue. The trees planted in 2018 will grow and finally be harvested under different climatic conditions according to the IPCC scenarios.
Even though the timber production in for example Sweden is predicted to increase by some 20 to 40 % over this century, the forests will also face increased risks. Storm damages, forest fires and the risk for severe drought during the summer will probably increase. The risk for insect damages will increase. New pests and pathogens may spread northwards from regions with warmer climate. Higher temperature and more precipitation during the winter will probably make forest operations and transports more difficult. Also biodiversity will be affected in various ways.
This is what you can do
All these risks can, however, be counteracted to various degrees in case they are adequately taken into account in forest management. There is a range of potential measures to be taken by the forest owner for adaptation in different perspectives, including for example to:
- Use forest regeneration material adapted to climate change.
- Control population size of moose and roe-deer to prevent damages in young stands and improve freedom to regenerate with other species than spruce.
- Try to establish stands with other tree species in case of high domination of a single tree species, or establish stands with mixed tree species composition.
- Practice early and strong thinning, keep species mixture in mixed stands.
- Avoid thinning in older stands and the creation of forests edges exposed to wind damage, especially in stands dominated by spruce.
- Prevent damage from root rot and bark beetles.
- Take environmental protection measures in all forest operations, for example by leaving boarder zones along streams, lakes and mires, and minimize damage on soil and water at off-road transports.
- Improve use of guidelines for forest operations based on fire risk and landslide/erosion assessments.
The forest sector will meet challenges in combining and balancing the objectives to secure and increase timber production, avoiding increased costs and maintain other ecosystem services and preserving biodiversity.
We need to know more
Further research is needed on the anticipated climatic changes and their effects on forests. We will need a continuous development of strategies and forest management practices to be able to handle the consequences in the short and long term perspectives.
Johan Wester, SNS board