Reasons to adapt: risks and impacts of climate change for forestry highlighted

Reasons to adapt: risks and impacts of climate change for forestry highlightedIn July the risks, opportunities and impacts of climate change for UK forestry were highlighted in two new reports.  The publications bring attention to the importance of actively managing woodlands to help them cope with our changing climate, for example by improving forest structure, diversifying tree species, and increasing their ability to cope with extreme events such as drought, wildfire and wind storms.

The first publication was an independent report to Government called the ‘UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report’.  The report will inform the second UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) due in January 2017.   It reviews and summarises the main risks and opportunities for the UK from climate change.  The report identifies six top risks where there is a need for more coordinated action within the next five years.  Amongst these are risks from new and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive non-native invasive species, as well as risks to terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, soils and biodiversity.  As with the first CCRA produced in 2012, Forest Research led the input of evidence from the forestry sector to the report.

The second publication was the LWEC Agriculture & Forestry Climate Change Impacts Report Card.  The card summaries the scientific evidence of how climate change is affecting agriculture and forestry in the UK and explains how it might affect these land uses in the future.  It is based on the findings from nine detailed peer-reviewed papers prepared by leading experts, including those in Forest Research (who also acted as the lead author for the forestry sector). It is aimed at anyone who works with, or has an interest in, agriculture, horticulture or forestry in the UK, in particular to help inform decisions on adaptation actions needed.

Like the CCRA report, the Report Card highlights new and emerging pests and diseases as particular risks.  It also explains that in the next 20-30 years timber yield potential is likely to increase in the cooler, wetter uplands and the north and west of the UK but in drier areas, on lighter soils or for species that are sensitive to drought, there will be reduced growth.  In the longer term reduced water availability and more frequent extreme weather events are likely to reduce both growth and yield potential in many areas.  Biodiversity in semi-natural and managed woodlands is expected to adjust as a result of a changing climate, as is the range and quality of the other ecosystem services that forestry provides and relies on.  These include climate control, flood regulation, pollination and nutrient cycling.

The CCRA 2017 Evidence Report is available here

The LWEC Report Card and technical papers are available here

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