European forests are seriously threatened.  Climate change

There are few tree species that will be able to survive such rapid climate changes. They should be used to reforest areas. However, as researchers from Austria found, even these species will not be able to meet the challenge of creating forests that are resistant to threats and ensure ecosystem stability.

European forests are already severely affected by climate change. Thousands of hectares of trees have died due to drought and pests. Scientists from the University of Vienna and the Technical University of Munich have examined which trees are most resistant to current conditions and can therefore be used for reforestation. Their findings clearly showed that only a few species are suitable for such purposes, such as the English oak.

However, as researchers emphasize in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, mixed forests are extremely important for the survival of forest ecosystems, which is why a few specific species are definitely not enough. Forest monocultures are considered suboptimal because they are highly exposed to all negative factors.

Tropical forests play an important role in absorbing carbon dioxideAdam Ziminovich/PAP

European forests are less diverse

In the introduction to the publication, scientists stated that although there are many different trees in European forests, the number of species here is much lower than in climatically similar regions of North America or East Asia. In the future, the situation will be even worse: depending on the region, a third or even half of the trees currently in existence on the ancient continent will not be able to cope with the climatic conditions.

– This is a significant decline – commented the lead author of the study, Dr. Johannes Wesley. He added – especially since only some species are considered interesting for forests.

Scientists examined 69 out of just over 100 European tree species. They decided that only nine of them would be suitable for possible future afforestation of continental Europe, and four – for Great Britain.

Trees planted for reforestation must withstand current and future conditions. This is difficult because they will have to endure cold and frost in the next few years, as well as a warmer climate in the late 21st century, Wesley explained. – These species include, among others: English Oak.

Forests in the worldMateusz Krymski/pub

What are “trees of the future”?

However, even if a group of trees is selected that is optimally adapted to climate changes, a serious biodiversity problem arises – nine species are certainly not enough to create a stable mixed forest.

Mixed forests, consisting of different tree species, are an important factor in increasing the resistance of these ecosystems to various disturbances, such as bark beetles. Unfortunately, in some places in Europe there may not be trees that would enable the creation of suitably diverse mixed forests – added the co-author of the publication, prof. Robert Seidel.

The scientist stated that trees perform various important functions: they store carbon, provide habitat or a source of food for animals, and can be processed and converted into wood. But not all species perform these roles equally. Of the set of “trees of the future” identified by his team, only three (out of nine) look promising in this regard.

Our work clearly shows how seriously climate change impacts forest survival. We cannot rely solely on a mixture of several tree species. Dr. Wesley concluded that rapid action to mitigate climate change is essential for the sustainable protection of these ecosystems.

Forests in PolandPAP

PAP,, EurekAlert

Main image source: Stock struggle

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