Motive Project

Article alert: Climate change and nature conservation in Central European Forests - A review

by: Ulla Vänttinen

Milad, M., Schaich, H., Bürgi, M., Konold, W., 2011. Climate change and nature conservation in Central European forests: A review of consequences, concepts and challenges. Forest Ecology and Management 261 (4): 829-843.


With a predicted rise in average global surface temperature at an unprecedented rate, as well as changes in precipitation and disturbance regimes, climate change will bring forth new challenges for nature conservation in forest ecosystems. Species and habitats to be protected will be affected as well as related concepts and area specific objectives. Climate change impacts are likely to be aggravated by other anthropogenic stresses such as fragmentation, deposition or habitat destruction. To be reliable and effective, current objectives and guidelines of forest conservation need to be reassessed and improved. Our study analyses possible impacts of climate change on forests and identifies key future challenges for nature conservation in forests and ecosystem research. We reviewed 130 papers on climate change impacts on forest ecosystems and species published between 1995 and 2010. The geographical focus of the study is Central Europe. Papers were analysed accounting for direct and indirect impacts of gradual changes as well as stochastic disturbance events in forest ecosystems and their possible consequences for nature conservation. Even though broader aspects of nature conservation (protected areas, biodiversity) are frequently mentioned, little attention is given to forest-specific nature conservation. Particular aspects are insufficiently represented, such as the influence of climate change on different forest succession stages, the development of dead wood volume and quality, responses of secondary broadleaved species, azonal or extrazonal forests as well as ancient woodlands or remnants of historical silvicultural systems. Challenges arise in the context of great uncertainties about future developments. Nature conservation concepts and objectives in forests need to be adapted either within a permanent evaluation process or through the inclusion of further changes a priori, even if they are to some extent unpredictable. In some cases adaptation measures within nature conservation (e.g. adjusting protected areas) may conflict with interests of other stakeholders. Further research, particularly on interrelations between different impacts and the adaptive capacity of current forest ecosystems, associated species and existing genotypes is urgently needed. The scale and complexity of the task at hand calls for the establishment and further strengthening of international research networks.

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