Reviewing the science and implementation of climate change adaptation measures in European forestry
ABSTRACT Developing adaptation measures in forestry is an urgent task because the forests regenerated today will have to cope with climate conditions that may drastically change during the life of the trees in the stand. This paper presents a comprehensive review of potential adaptation options in forestry in Europe based on three pillars: a review of the scientific literature, an analysis of current national response strategies, and an expert assessment based on a database compiled in the COST Action ECHOES (Expected Climate Change and Options for European Silviculture). The adaptation measures include responses to both risks and opportunities created by climate change and address all stages of forestry operations. Measures targeted to reduce vulnerability to climate change may either aim to reduce forest sensitivity to adverse climate change impacts or increase adaptive capacity to cope with the changing environmental conditions. Adaptation measures mitigating drought and fire risk such as selection of more drought resistant species and genotypes are crucial. For adaptation to be successful it is of the utmost importance to disseminate the knowledge of suitable adaptation measures to all decision makers from the practice to the policy level. The analysis of the ECHOES database demonstrates that this challenge is well recognized in many European countries. Uncertainty about the full extent of climate change impacts and the suitability of adaptation measures creates a need for monitoring and further research. A better understanding of how to increase adaptive capacity is also needed, as well as regional vulnerability assessments which are crucial for targeting planned adaptation measures.
- SourceAvailable from: amercury.com[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Forests currently absorb billions of tons of CO2 globally every year, an economic subsidy worth hundreds of billions of dollars if an equivalent sink had to be created in other ways. Concerns about the permanency of forest carbon stocks, difficulties in quantifying stock changes, and the threat of environmental and socioeconomic impacts of large-scale reforestation programs have limited the uptake of forestry activities in climate policies. With political will and the involvement of tropical regions, forests can contribute to climate change protection through carbon sequestration as well as offering economic, environmental, and sociocultural benefits. A key opportunity in tropical regions is the reduction of carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation.Science 07/2008; 320(5882):1456-7. · 31.20 Impact Factor
- International Affairs - INT AFF. 01/2006; 82(5):861-879.
- Cambridge University Press.
Forests 2011, 2, 961-982; doi:10.3390/f2040961
Reviewing the Science and Implementation of Climate Change
Adaptation Measures in European Forestry
Marja Kolström 1,*, Marcus Lindner 1, Terhi Vilén 1, Michael Maroschek 2, Rupert Seidl 2,
Manfred J. Lexer 2, Sigrid Netherer 3, Antoine Kremer 4, Sylvain Delzon 4, Anna Barbati 5,
Marco Marchetti 6 and Piermaria Corona 5
1 European Forest Institute (EFI), Torikatu 34, Joensuu 80100, Finland;
E-Mails: firstname.lastname@example.org (M.L.); email@example.com (T.V.)
2 Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, Institute of Silviculture, University of Natural Resources
and Life Sciences (BOKU), Peter Jordan Straße 82, Vienna A-1190, Austria;
E-Mails: firstname.lastname@example.org (M.M.); email@example.com (R.S.);
3 Institute of Forest Entomology, Forest Pathology and Forest Protection, University of Natural
Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Hasenauerstraße 38, Vienna A-1190, Austria;
4 INRA, University of Bordeaux, UMR BIOGECO, 69 Route d’Arcachon, CESTAS Cedex 33612,
France; E-Mails: firstname.lastname@example.org (A.K.); email@example.com (S.D.)
5 Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-Food and Forest Systems (DIBAF), University of
Tuscia, Via S. Camillo de Lellis, Viterbo 01100, Italy; E-Mails: firstname.lastname@example.org (A.B.);
6 Italian Academy of Forest Sciences, Piazza Edison 11, Florence 50133, Italy;
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: email@example.com;
Tel.: +358-10-773-4334; Fax: +358-10-773-4377.
Received: 5 July 2011; in revised form: 29 August 2011 / Accepted: 3 November 2011 /
Published: 11 November 2011
Abstract: Developing adaptation measures in forestry is an urgent task because the forests
regenerated today will have to cope with climate conditions that may drastically change
during the life of the trees in the stand. This paper presents a comprehensive review of
potential adaptation options in forestry in Europe based on three pillars: a review of the
scientific literature, an analysis of current national response strategies, and an expert
Forests 2011, 2
assessment based on a database compiled in the COST Action ECHOES (Expected
Climate Change and Options for European Silviculture). The adaptation measures include
responses to both risks and opportunities created by climate change and address all stages
of forestry operations. Measures targeted to reduce vulnerability to climate change may
either aim to reduce forest sensitivity to adverse climate change impacts or increase
adaptive capacity to cope with the changing environmental conditions. Adaptation
measures mitigating drought and fire risk such as selection of more drought resistant
species and genotypes are crucial. For adaptation to be successful it is of the utmost
importance to disseminate the knowledge of suitable adaptation measures to all decision
makers from the practice to the policy level. The analysis of the ECHOES database
demonstrates that this challenge is well recognized in many European countries.
Uncertainty about the full extent of climate change impacts and the suitability of adaptation
measures creates a need for monitoring and further research. A better understanding of how
to increase adaptive capacity is also needed, as well as regional vulnerability assessments
which are crucial for targeting planned adaptation measures.
Keywords: forestry; Europe; climate change; adaptation strategies; forest management
Forest ecosystems play an important role in the global biogeochemical cycles. Forests act as both
sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, and in doing so they have significant influence on the climate
of the earth [1,2]. At the same time, forests are particularly sensitive to climate change, because the
long life-span of trees does not allow for rapid adaptation to environmental changes. The currently
observed rate of increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas content has exceeded earlier projections ,
and most recent studies suggest that changes caused by the current and projected further increases
might to a large extent be irreversible . Consequently, adaptation to climate change is now
perceived as a prime challenge for modern society [5-7]. It is particularly urgent to develop adaptation
strategies in forestry because the trees regenerated in forest stands today will have to cope with climate
conditions that are projected to change drastically throughout their lifetime.
Global mean annual temperatures are projected to increase between 2 and 5 degrees by the year
2100 . Future water availability is difficult to predict as projected precipitation changes vary
regionally and shifts in the seasonal distribution of precipitation might lead to both extended dry and
wet periods. The impact of climate change will include increased growth rates especially in northern
Europe (at least in the short to medium term), whereas increased drought stress and aggravated biotic
and abiotic disturbance regimes are expected to negatively affect forest productivity in other parts of
Europe . These changes will not only affect tree growth, but they will also affect mortality and
competitive relations between species.
Adaptation has been defined as an adjustment in natural or human systems which moderates
harmful effects or exploits beneficial opportunities in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or
their effects . Adaptation strategies should include an analysis of climate vulnerability, an
Forests 2011, 2
assessment of existing coping strategies, and suggestions on how management might be modified to
respond to climate change . Reducing vulnerability involves a reduction of sensitivity as well as an
increase in adaptive capacity of forest ecosystems. The understanding of adaptive capacity in the forest
sector is just evolving and is thus difficult to quantify . Some changes in climate may be too fast for
autonomous adaptation of forest ecosystems, and extreme events could act as tipping points
threatening forests and the services and functions they provide . Climate change impacts like
drought induced dieback and increased disturbance related damages are already becoming increasingly
evident in several regions [12-14]. On the other hand, due to its gradual progression, and complicated
by huge inter-annual variability, it is challenging for decision makers to monitor climate change trends
and consequences for the forests under their stewardship. Hence, decisions must inevitably be made in
the face of great uncertainty. Related to forestry, two different fields of adaptation measures can be
distinguished: (i) management of trees, stands, and combinations of stands in the landscape, affecting
forest functions and services at the biophysical level; and (ii) activities influencing the socio-economic
and political frame of sustainable forest management (SFM) and its objectives.
Climate change adaptation strategies targeted for the forestry sector have been explored in several
studies for Canadian forestry [15-19]. In Europe, both model-based case studies [20-22] and theoretical
reviews, have addressed the topic [23-25]. European forestry is diverse both in terms of forest types and
socio-economic conditions. The ownership structure and related interests of owners and stakeholders
do not allow for one-size-fits-all solutions. Regional differences in actual and projected climate change
impacts are of particular importance and there are significant differences in socio-economic conditions
within the forest sector [8,26].
The need to encourage adaptation to the effects of climate change in European forestry is one of
three climate change related key actions in the European Union (EU) Forest Action Plan . The plan
calls for targeted research, training and studies on the impacts of an adaptation to climate change. In
response to this call, the objective of the present study was to review the available state of knowledge
on adaptation measures to changing climate in forest management in Europe. Some countries have
already developed climate change strategies or programs which include measures for the forestry
sector. A specific goal of the study was to collect information about on-going and planned adaptation
measures in forest management to obtain an overview of the current implementation and planned future
development of adaptation measures in the EU and other European countries. The objective of this paper
was to summarize adaptation options by means of a thorough review of the literature, and assess the
implementation of options by analyzing the COST Action ECHOES (Expected Climate Change and
Options for European Silviculture) database on adaptive measures in 19 European countries.
2. Study Area and Methods
The study area included the 27 Member States of the EU and additional European countries
participating in ECHOES (Norway, Switzerland, Croatia, Serbia and Russia) which are classified into
four bioclimatic zones corresponding to the macro-bioclimates of Europe : Boreal, Temperate
Oceanic, Temperate Continental, and Mediterranean. The bioclimatic classification is based on the
average monthly temperature range between the most extreme months of the year which has a great
influence on vegetation distribution.
Forests 2011, 2
A comprehensive literature review of potential adaptation options for forestry in Europe was
undertaken by searching and accessing peer-reviewed literature from the Scopus abstract and citation
database , using the keywords “adaptation”, “forest” and “climate change”. Additional literature
searches were made for specific forestry adaptation measures, e.g., “forest regeneration”, “tending of
stand”, “silvicultural management”, “harvesting”, “management planning”, “forest protection”,
“infrastructure” and “transportation”. Furthermore, project reports and national adaptation plans were
reviewed where available. A limited number of references from other geographical regions with
relevance for the study area were also included in the review. The adaptation measures reviewed
include responses to both risks and opportunities created by climate change, and address all stages of
forestry operations. For each stage potential adaptation measures were screened and documented.
A questionnaire survey was carried out to compile information about national measures for adapting
forests and forestry to climate change in the EU27 Member States in the year 2008. The survey
addressed national research institutes and ministries with responsibility for forestry. A total of
978 answers to the open questions were analyzed. Answers referring to similar adaptation measures
were combined, if proposed technique and motivation for the application of the measure were
comparable. However, if a proposed measure, for example intensified thinning had two different
targets—to reduce drought stress and to respond to increased growth rates—then it was kept in the list
with both motivations as separate measures.
Within the COST Action ECHOES, the list of measures obtained from the survey was transferred to
a database and country representatives were asked to complement the data with information about the
location, forest type and tree species to which the measures refer, the climate change impacts
addressed, as well as the anticipated effectiveness, possible trade-offs and their status of implementation
(ongoing/planned/idea). Additional measures could also be added by the country representatives. By
August 2011, the database included a total of 444 adaptation measures from 19 countries (16 EU
countries plus Switzerland, Croatia and Russia; Table 1). The database was scrutinized in this study to
assess the preparedness to climate change in different bioclimatic regions. This was done by
comparing the total number of adaptation measures, as well as the number of ongoing measures
between the regions.
Table 1. Number of database entries (measures listed by country respondents) by
bioclimatic regions and status of the measures. Since similar measures are listed by several
countries, the last column shows the number of different measures per bioclimatic region.
in the zone
Number of entries in the database Number of
TotalOngoing Planned Idea
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3. Adaptation Options in Forestry
3.1. Stand Level Adaptation Options
3.1.1. Forest Regeneration
Forest regeneration offers a direct and immediate opportunity to manipulate species or stand
composition. A highly recommended option to secure the adaptive response of established
regeneration is to raise the level of genetic diversity within the seedling population [23,30-32], either
by natural or artificial means. The more diverse and larger the seedling population is, the more
potential there is for populations to adapt to environmental changes. Because the genetic composition
of populations needs to be shifted to cope with environmental changes, present diversity levels should
be increased compared to local regeneration conditions .
Under natural regeneration regimes, increased genetic diversity can be achieved by benefiting
successive fruiting years, thereby increasing gene flow from external male parents to different seed
trees. Enrichment sowing and planting in naturally regenerated stands is another option to raise the
level of diversity. Natural selection works on the gene pool (local and introduced trees) and over time a
population better adapted to the changing conditions develops [34,35].
The size of the seedling population is far lower in the case of artificial than in natural regeneration,
unless sowing is used. Generally, only selected certified tree seed can be used in Europe. To raise
levels of genetic diversity, seedlings coming from different seed stands can be mixed at the nursery
stage. In addition, local material can be supplemented with introduced material from other seed
sources. Given that the fitness distribution in the population is unknown, best adapted genotypes to
climate change may either originate from local sources or from external sources. This is why
supplemental regeneration is suggested. Supplemental regeneration also enhances evolutionary responses
to new selection pressures by increasing local diversity .
Several national seed transfer regulations have defined provenance regions where only local
populations of European tree species are recommended for establishment, but elsewhere there are no
rules preventing the use of non-local material except in natural parks or reserves. Preadapted seed
transfer should be based on results of provenance tests and integrate knowledge on genetic variation
among populations and predicted changes of bioclimatic envelopes. Examples of climate preadapted
seed transfers were recently developed for lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) in British Columbia, either
based on response functions , or combining ecological and genetic data . In Europe, similar
approaches were used for Scots pine (P. sylvestris) by Reich and Oleksyn , who concluded that
transfer of populations would need to be made over increasingly larger distances from the south
Tree breeding could support the development of genetic material better adapted to future climate
conditions, but current expectations are rather modest. Most breeding programs of tree species in
Europe focused on improving trees for production and quality traits, whereas selection criteria related
to adaptation to higher CO2, higher temperatures, or longer water stress periods have been mostly
neglected, or have only been introduced during the last decade . Compared to traditional methods
more sophisticated approaches based on biotechnology (in vitro propagation, somatic embryogenesis,
gene transfer) may significantly shorten the time required to produce new commercial varieties, once
Forests 2011, 2
genes of significance for adaption have been identified [41,42]. Research efforts are being conducted
to identify candidate genes related to traits that will respond to climate change: (i) bud burst [43-46];
(ii) bud set [47,48]; and (iii) drought resistance and water use efficiency [49-51]. However, the
achievements obtained so far are not at the stage of introducing these genes (by crossing or other
means) in commercial varieties yet. Therefore, to date the only way through which breeding activities
may take into account climate change would be to raise diversity within the varieties produced by seed
orchards. This can be done by supplementing seed lots harvested in seed orchards with seeds stemming
from other origins or other seed orchards.
Regenerating species best adapted for current conditions may result in a higher risk of dieback in the
future . The promotion of specific tree species includes the risk of unanticipated losses caused by
“new” plant diseases that emerge and affect particular species or species groups, such as experienced in
the case of Dutch elm disease or most recently with Ash dieback . On the other hand, selecting new
plant material adapted to the projected future climatic conditions includes considerable risk of
“prognostic error” given the high uncertainties in projections of future climate at local and regional
scales. Furthermore, the stands may be adapted in a sub-optimal way to current conditions .
Besides adaptation options aiming at reproductive material, technical options can be applied in the
regeneration phase. Planting in drought prone areas can be adapted via wider initial spacing of trees in
combination with rigorous weed control to reduce competition for water resources from weeds .
Furthermore, a shift in planting season from spring to autumn with additional site preparation could
enhance drought resistance of freshly planted trees due to improved initial rooting. Planting of
container seedlings might also reduce the risk of immediate drought effects [30,53]. Furthermore stand
establishment with tree species that have good sprouting potential may increase future flexibility in
stand regeneration as sprouts are more drought resistant compared to seedlings. Indeed, tree sprouts
generally have higher rates of survival than seedlings under water stress as they benefit from resources
stored in parent plants and a more extensive root system .
Based on the ECHOES database, climate change is already taken into account in decisions related
to regeneration of forest stands. In all bioclimatic regions, species and provenances better adapted to
projected future conditions are being considered to select and species that perform well across different
site conditions are favored. Also tree species diversity is widely considered. In temperate regions,
natural regeneration is used for the main tree species and sometimes enrichment planting of species
which are robust against climate change is used in combination with natural regeneration. At nursery
stage, moist-preserving chemicals are utilized in seedling production, transport and planting in
Slovakia, and in Sweden nurseries have taken measures in the selection of a more plastic genetic
material. In Spain nursery culture was improved to increase survival of planting stock in
plantations [55,56] and the number of species planted in afforestation programs has been increased to
promote diversity .
3.1.2. Tending, Thinning and Harvesting
While species choice in the regeneration phase has more long-term impact, practices taking place
after stand establishment to promote target species composition, stand stability, quality, and structure
as well as enhancing growth of crop trees have effects on shorter timescales. Proposed adaptation
Forests 2011, 2
measures aim mainly at modifying frequency or intensity of tending and thinning activities, but may
also include altering tree species composition by targeted stand tending operations.
Adaptation measures in tending and precommercial thinning should support mixed stands of
well-adapted tree species, inter alia to distribute risk via diversification . A recent simulation study
in Austria corroborated the positive adaptation effect of such measures for a wide range of stand and
site conditions . In the boreal zone and in high altitudes, thinning schedules should be adapted to
the increased growth rates [59,60]. At drought prone sites thinning improves the recovery of growth in
subsequent years after dry periods [23,61,62]. Both experimental data (e.g., [63,64]) and simulation
studies (e.g., ) support the positive effect of thinnings on traits of individual tree stability.
However, since canopy openings affect stand integrity and increase surface roughness, intensified
thinning might be limited by increased short-term susceptibility to abiotic and biotic damages such as
windthrow (e.g., ) or insect infestation . Improved individual tree stability increases flexibility
in the stand regeneration phase, thus balancing the negative effects of increased surface roughness
through higher stability in partial regeneration cuts.
To counteract negative impacts of climate change in over-mature, structurally uniform forests,
standing stocks have to be reduced by adapted thinning regimes focusing on increasing and maintaining
structural diversity . Tending and thinning can also help to manage increasingly mal-adapted stands
in a changing environment .
Small-scale harvesting interventions and promoting harvesting systems which support natural
regeneration of suitable species were recommended to increase spatial heterogeneity and
biodiversity . However, small-scale cutting may induce loss of light-demanding tree species, which
are often also more tolerant to water stress and high temperatures  because they are typically
pioneer species. Yet, this might be balanced by intensifying disturbance regimes under climate change
(see below). Recently, continuous cover forestry and variable retention systems have been proposed
as robust strategies under climate change , but their overall benefits in this context remain
poorly investigated [22,71].
Late stand development stages are generally vulnerable to major disturbance factors (e.g., windthrow,
bark beetles, fungal diseases), and harvesting activities may increase stand susceptibility [67,72].
Adaptation should thus aim at reducing predisposing stand characteristics, e.g., via minimizing stand
edges exposed to prevailing winds  or intense direct sun exposure.
In the Boreal region, technological development in harvesting machinery will be crucial to adapt
harvesting operations to warmer winters with shortened frost periods. The wintertime increase in
soil moisture and reduced periods of frozen soil may cause reduced carrying capacity of soil for
timber harvesting .
ECHOES data show that adaptation of thinning and harvesting practices is already ongoing
throughout European forestry. Many countries report on modifying thinnings to reach stand structures
more robust to projected conditions and extreme events. That is done by either modifying the
frequency and intensity of thinning, by promoting species mixtures and/or uneven-aged/structured
stands. In the temperate region, small scale regeneration methods like gaps, irregular shelterwood
systems and group selection systems are preferred to increase spatial heterogeneity in forest structures.
In the boreal region, harvesting methods are already adapted to better suit wet sites. In Cyprus, the
Forests 2011, 2
observed dieback of trees has lead to the felling and export of dead trees for insect outbreak control
and to decrease fire risk .
3.2. Adaptation Options Beyond the Stand Level
3.2.1. Forest Management Planning
Forest management strategies include response options beyond the level of individual stands. In
forest planning, the shortening of rotation periods can be an appropriate management response to
accelerated growth in mountainous or boreal environments , but trade-offs with in situ carbon
storage  and a lower nutrient budget due to increased biomass extraction should be considered.
Diversification of tree species mixtures and management approaches between neighboring forest
stands or within a forest landscape increases adaptive capacity, hedges risks and improves the overall
resilience of forest ecosystems [24,77,78]. As there is uncertainty about the best timing of changing
species or provenances in forest regeneration, both reactive and proactive adaptation strategies can be
applied simultaneously, for instance in different forest stands of a management unit. Adaptive forest
management planning  systematically integrates results of previous interventions to iteratively
improve and accommodate change, by learning from the outcomes of applied silvicultural practices
under the changing external conditions [80,81].
At the stand level, individual response strategies can be mutually exclusive. For example, preferring
natural regeneration in mixed forests with long rotation cycles is incompatible with planting productive
genotypes managed in short rotation cycles. Over larger geographical scales of management units and
forest landscapes, however, such strategies can also be combined. In addressing the complexities of
landscape-scale planning forest ecosystem models and multi-criteria decision analyses have considerable
potential to support forest management under changing environmental conditions [20,26,82]. As part of
decision support systems these tools can facilitate a holistic uncertainty management [83,84].
Based on the ECHOES database, ongoing adaptation measures in management planning concern
mainly modifying the timing of the final harvest. Generally, rotation lengths are reduced due to
increased productivity or to speed up the stand replacement in vulnerable stands. However, in Pinus
nigra forests in Mediterranean mountains of Spain, rotation periods are lengthened due to observed
difficulties in natural regeneration and mortality due to summer drought. In temperate regions and in
Spain, forest growth models and Decision Support Systems (DSS) to evaluate impacts of climate
change and to identify suitable management options are already developed.
3.2.2. Pest and Diseases and Disturbance Risk Management
Disturbance agents are expected to gain importance under climate change. Occurrence and
performance of biotic agents are in flux when environmental conditions change, and there is evidence
that there will be higher probabilities of damage by insect pests and fungal diseases at higher
temperatures [85-87]. The observed continental scale increases in damage from disturbances is
linked to ongoing climatic changes, yet changes in forest vegetation are of equal importance in
explaining recent unprecedented disturbance levels . Intensive forestry practice over decades has
promoted stands of non-autochthonous tree species and of high structural uniformity in many parts of
Forests 2011, 2
Europe—e.g., plantations of Norway spruce (Picea abies) in central Europe—with the unintentional
consequence of increasing susceptibility to disturbances. Consequently, there is a high demand for
comprehensive planning systems which incorporate pest risk assessment and aim to improve forest
health and stability [89,90]. Stands mixed with species not equally susceptible to specific pest species
remain less affected than monocultures , because the limited food resources keep pest population
levels lower. On the other hand, the selection of tolerant or resistant families and clones may also be an
adequate measure to reduce the risk of damage by pests and diseases in pure stands . To understand
the complex reasons why different diseases and pests may become a problem, comprehensive knowledge
on the susceptibility of specific forest communities to disturbance by specific pathogen or insect pest
species is needed. However, such knowledge is mostly lacking at the forest management level, and is
also under-represented in the scientific literature. Expert models such as for the Eurasian spruce bark
beetle (Ips typographus) [91,92] help foresters to identify risks and to gain awareness of the scope of
potential activity especially with regard to climate change.
Increasing temperature with decreasing summer precipitation (at least in central and southern
Europe) and more intense singular precipitation events  may lead to increasingly dry periods and
increased fire risk. Current fire prevention policies need to be adjusted to cope with longer and more
severe fire seasons, increasing fire frequency, and larger areas exposed to fire risk, especially in the
Mediterranean region . Adaptation measures include: (i) modification of forest structure (e.g., tree
spacing and density, regulation of age class structure); (ii) fuel management (prescribed burning,
thinning, pruning and biomass removals, grazing), with priority given to forest types with the ability to
regenerate after fire (e.g., young Pinus halepensis and P. pinaster forests); (iii) creation of a landscape
mosaic of forest types including species with reduced flammability, (iv) infrastructure planning for
direct fire attack in relation to the specific behavior for each fuel model ; and (v) implementation
of policies to limit the abandonment of burned areas and actions to prevent the spread of invasive
species in burned areas.
Forest protection measures should be integrated in the landscape level forest planning to balance
stand level management goals and risk mitigation. A reduced rotation length will lower the risk
of financial losses in stands susceptible to windthrow, bark beetle attacks or other disturbances
predominantly affecting later development stages . Increasing tree species diversity distributes
risks and is likely to mitigate large-scale damage in the case of extreme events, but alternative species
usually produce less timber than the currently favored fast growing conifers.
Integrating risk into forest management decision making is facilitated by applying a risk management
process comprising three major steps: (i) risk analysis or risk assessment; (ii) risk handling; and (iii) risk
control. For the first step different kind of models are used . Risk handling in forestry can be
promoted by educational efforts, e.g., through training courses focusing on identification and prevention
of risks and furthermore on mitigation of occurred damages . The second step involves determining
expected costs of the disturbance with and without control or adaptation measures. Adaptive disturbance
management would benefit from improved fire, storm and pest risk simulation  and projections of
the effectiveness of alternative management options to reduce disturbance calamities. Furthermore, as
the existing coping strategies may not be sufficient under climate change, new insurance concepts
should be developed to distribute risks .
Forests 2011, 2
The preparedness to respond to increased pest and disease risks on the European level is only
moderate; there are only a few ongoing measures recorded in the ECHOES database. In UK, the
incidence of the Red band needle blight (Dothistroma septosporum) has increased dramatically
particularly on Corsican pine (Pinus nigra ssp. laricio), and due to the extent and severity of the
disease on this species, a temporary planting moratorium has been set on the Forestry Commission
estate . Despite the high demand for monitoring of pest species and diseases, Croatia, Hungary,
Italy and Serbia are the only countries in the ECHOES database reporting monitoring of new and
existing pest species and diseases as an ongoing adaptation measure. In addition, integrated control
schemes for biotic risk agents are explored in selected forests in Austria. Shorter rotation length is
used to reduce the risk of storm damage in several countries. In Germany, storm damage models and
site mapping are applied to improve risk assessment. In France emergency plans for the handling of
large-scale wind-blown wood have been developed in response to large recent damages. Design and
promotion of fire-smart management at management unit/landscape level is an ongoing measure in
3.2.3. Infrastructure and Transporting
A dense forest road network is a prerequisite for the small-scale, structurally diverse thinning and
harvesting practices recommended to adapt harvesting systems. Vital forest functions depend on such
small-scale measures particularly in complex terrain such as mountain forests [102,103]. Access is
furthermore a key element in coping with disturbance events (e.g., insect pest outbreaks, forest fires) as
well as in proactive forest protection routines. Moreover, infrastructure supporting the mitigation of
large-scale disturbance impacts should be expanded. Timber storage capacities—wet storage where the
moisture level of timber is maintained at a high level by artificial irrigation, and foil storage where
timber is stored by wrapping it in foil—could be expanded in order to muster both the phytosanitary
necessity of an immediate salvage as well as a buffered release of timber into the timber market to
prevent price volatility . Forest road maintenance needs to be adapted to increasing peak
precipitation and runoff  and shorter periods of frozen ground during the winter as well as thawing
permafrost require changes in management schedules and/or machinery to respond to reduced
accessibility to forest stands in the Boreal zone .
Forest infrastructure can also directly affect forest susceptibility to climate change. To adapt to
increasingly dry conditions Cuculeanu et al.  proposed an augmentation of storage lakes and
irrigation canals in Romania. Such measures might, however, only be feasible for highly valuable crop
species and where irrigation is not in conflict with other land uses. Zebisch et al.  suggest for
Germany that infrastructure measures should prevent a decreasing ground water table (e.g., via
deactivating drainage systems) and that the natural water regime in floodplain forests should be restored.
So far, only few adaptation measures have been taken to adapt infrastructure and transport to
climate change; only Finland, Cyprus, Croatia and Spain have reported ongoing adaptation measures in
this category of the ECHOES database. In Finland, the proportion of high-capacity transportation by
railroads has increased and a reduced impact harvesting technology has developed to better protect wet
soils. As water availability is perceived as one of the most important factors in relation to oak decline
in Croatia, a network of stations for the monitoring of groundwater levels was installed across the
Forests 2011, 2
distribution range of lowland and floodplain forests of Pedunculate oak. This measure aims at collecting
a sufficient amount of data on groundwater level dynamics to provide the basis for more in-depth
understanding of the oak decline process. Furthermore, in Cyprus, Spain and Croatia infrastructure is
improved for fire detection, control and suppression to meet increasing fire risks under climate change.
3.3. Adaptation Options at the Policy Level
A robust monitoring system is important to assess climate change impacts (including dieback and
pest dynamics) and the reaction of forest ecosystems to the adaptive management strategies .
Reducing forest fragmentation through afforestation and by establishing connecting corridors between
densely forested regions contributes to increasing biodiversity and thus enhances natural adaptive
capacity [8,23,108]. Establishing forest management associations can help to improve management of
fragmented forests with multiple owners, allowing suitable adaptation measures to be implemented. In
general human capital is of paramount importance in climate change adaptation, and is a prerequisite
to local implementation of adaptation measures. The capacity of forest owners to adapt to climate
change in a planned way is strongly dependent on the individual’s strength of belief in climate change
and in the adaption measures . Thus raising awareness of forest owners and practitioners about
the impacts of climate change is important.
Adaptive measures often lead to higher costs and thus may weaken the economic situation of the
enterprises . However, measures that aim to increase adaptive capacity are likely to pay off
through reducing the need for further planned adaptation. Investing in infrastructure, research and
increasing awareness for adaptation measures are strategies which help to improve the socio-economic
adaptive capacity .
At the policy level, adaptation to climate change may require adjustments in social, economic and
political systems. Obstacles to be addressed include institutional and policy barriers, as current
guidelines (e.g., for plant production in nurseries) are often designed for a stable climate regime .
Existing policy instruments need to be adapted or used for adaptation. For example, the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Commission allows support for adaptation measures in
forest management, but not all Member States use this mechanism . Since policies in other
sectors may influence decisions affecting forestry, inter-sectoral coordination is needed to ensure that
policy development in related policy sectors are not contradictory or counterproductive in the context
of forest management.
In the ECHOES database, high level adaptation options in risk management and policy forms the
largest and most variable group of measures. In temperate regions, dissemination of knowledge related
to climate change impacts is widely promoted; there are ongoing measures concerning dissemination
of forecasts/scenarios of regional effects of climate change (Hungary), development and dissemination
of improved forestry guidelines (Germany, France and Netherlands), creating a specific website for
presentation and monitoring of national work plans to cope with climate change (Hungary) and
conferences and workshops about adaptation measures to climate change for forest owners and
stakeholders (Switzerland, Germany and Slovakia). Monitoring of climate change impacts has already
started in Cyprus and in France where existing monitoring networks were adapted. Methods utilizing a
range of remote sensing techniques are developed to monitor climate change impacts in Switzerland.
Forests 2011, 2
Research is another important focus of ongoing measures. The database lists research on climate
change related management guidelines (Slovakia), provenance trials to identify best adapted
provenances under changing climate in Spain, and research on pest and diseases and new regeneration
techniques for continuous-cover silviculture (Hungary). Increased mortality, in particular of Picea
abies caused by Ips typographus has lead to search for species or varieties better adapted to new
environments based on phenotypic and molecular characterization (Hungary, Switzerland, UK).
Forest owners are encouraged with incentives to apply adaptive forest management to forests with
protective functions (Italy) and to convert highly vulnerable spruce or pine dominated forests into
mixed forests (Germany). In Germany work qualification of private forest owners is supported.
Investments in fire prevention policies (e.g., increasing private and public awareness, education
campaigns of forest managers, etc.) are an important part of the adaptation to climate change addition
in the Mediterranean parts of Europe. In the temperate continental and the Mediterranean region forest
reserves for threatened forest species and networks of protected forests are established.
4. Overview of Reported Adaptation Measures in Different European Regions
The ECHOES database of climate change adaptation measures gives insights on the preparedness to
climate change in different bioclimatic regions in Europe. The ECHOES data indicate that adaptation is
ongoing all over Europe. The highest number of measures is reported for the Temperate Oceanic region,
but when corrected for the number of respondent countries, the measures are equally distributed over all
regions (Table 1).
When all measures are taken into account regardless of their status, adaptation measures dealing
with high level adaptation options in risk management are the most common in all regions except the
Boreal region, where a lot of regeneration, tending, thinning and management planning measures are
reported (Figure 1). A closer look at the status of the measures reveals that in all regions forests are
already managed to be more tolerant to future conditions and extreme events; i.e., species and
provenances that are more tolerant to future conditions are used in regeneration, and tree species
diversity is taken into account in both the regeneration and thinning and tending phase to enhance the
adaptive capacity of forests. In Mediterranean region investments in fire prevention policies
(e.g., increasing private and public awareness, education campaigns of forest managers) and improving
infrastructure for fire detection, control and suppression have been initiated. However, there are also
many country-specific measures which are still in the planning phase—e.g., although there is a
growing theoretical awareness about reducing the biotic and abiotic damage, there is still a high
developmental need for monitoring and early warning systems. The future challenge especially lies in
a cross-border implementation of such systems and the coordinated operation of adequate instruments
at the EU-level.
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Figure 1. Type of measures applied in different bioclimatic regions based on ECHOES data.
Tending and thinning
Infrastructure and transport
Nurseries and tree breeding
High level adaptation options in risk
5. Discussion and Conclusions
There is a multitude of optional measures that can be used to adapt forest management to climate
change. Some of these measures are not new and have already been used in forest management before
climate change became an issue. Close-to-nature forestry, for example, was previously advocated to
improve forest stability especially in monocultures of spruce and pine (e.g., ). Nowadays, the
management approach is advocated also as a measure to increase adaptive capacity of stands to a
changing climate . It can be argued whether such measures should really be termed adaptive
forest management strategies in the context of climate change. We considered also traditional
measures in our review, because climate change aggravates many existing challenges, and measures
that proved successful before may continue to be suitable in responding to increasing pressures under
climate change. This should be kept in mind also when interpreting the state of implementation of
adaptive management measures reported here, as it is obviously challenging to identify and implement
novel response strategies where no analogue problems raised by climate change exist. An important
question is how to select suitable measures from the multitude of options. As in traditional forest
management, site conditions are important factors and the existing forest and management structures
further narrow down the choice of feasible alternative measures. To consider adaptation to climate
change in forest management, the forest manager needs to analyze exposure to climate change, assess
potential impacts, and evaluate the adaptive capacity of both the forest ecosystem and the management
system. Based on such circumspect analyses, measures that reduce vulnerability, either by reducing
impacts of climate change or by improving adaptive capacity, can be identified .
Another important issue is which measures can be jointly applied, and whether trade-offs between
measures exist that would prevent their combination at the stand level. Trade-offs between management
objectives play a crucial role in multi-purpose SFM [20,113,114] and some of the proposed adaptation
Forests 2011, 2
measures may change the balance between current objectives and stakeholder interests. As already
discussed in the review of higher level adaptation options, it is crucial to consider that different
measures can be implemented at the stand and at the management unit or landscape scale.
Adaptation to climate change will have both direct and indirect costs—e.g., monitoring of biotic
risk agents or improving infrastructure for better fire management will mean higher costs. Many
adaptation measures like favoring drought resistant species or increasing tree species diversity will also
decrease the capacity for timber production and thus reduce the future incomes from forestry.
However, possible forest dieback and large-scale damage following the “no-action” option would
likely have more severe economic impact. Furthermore, since adaptation and mitigation are
intrinsically linked, adaptation in forest management is essential to ensure the continuation of the
mitigation effect that forests have.
Improving the resilience of forests to future climate and supporting the adaptation of forestry
practices should have top priority in forest policy development. A lot of knowledge and potential
measures have already been identified in the literature, but practical implementation lags behind in
many cases. Measures at the forest management level have been already implemented in many
countries, but several important higher level measures, e.g., monitoring of new and existing pests and
diseases to prevent large-scale disturbances, are still in the planning phase and a coordinated operation
of adequate instruments at the EU-level is needed.
For adaptation to be successful it is of the utmost importance to disseminate the knowledge of
suitable adaptation measures to decision makers at different levels, policy makers and affected
stakeholder groups. Also, as the capacity to adapt to climate change in a planned way is strongly
dependent on the individual’s strength of belief in climate change , investments have to be made
in the training of forest owners and forest workers, who need to implement the measures on the
ground. The analysis of the ECHOES database demonstrates that this challenge is recognized in many
There are still several important research needs, e.g., resolving uncertainties about the full extent of
climate change impacts, improving regional climate change projections, improving our understanding
of tree responses, quantifying the adaptive capacity of the forest sector, and assessing the suitability of
adaptation measures. However, tackling these research needs will not result in standardized,
one-size-fits-all recommendations on how to best adapt forest management under a changing climate.
Rather, local solutions, combining experience from available adaptation measures with advanced
understanding from fundamental research, are a key to successfully adapting forest management to the
challenges of climate change.
This paper is partly based on the study to the European Commission Directorate-General for
Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI-2007-G4-06) and was further developed under the project
MOTIVE (number 226544, call FP7-ENV-2008-1) and the COST Action FP0703 ECHOES. We thank
Tim Green for language revision and the ECHOES country respondents for their contributions to the
database of adaptation measures.
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Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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