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Foresters must start planning now if the woodlands of Wales are to survive the predicted effects of more severe weather conditions as climate change begins to take effect.
That’s the clear message being put across to the forest sector, policy makers, and politicians at an important climate briefing at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay supported by Welsh Government Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, John Griffiths AM, in November.
Latest thinking on climate change threats and remedial actions from across Europe will be revealed in a special report from FUTUREforest Wales.
The document, drawn up by the Forestry Commission Wales three-year INTERREG IVC project - supported by the Welsh Government - also highlights the opportunities that changing weather patterns will bring.
“The Welsh Government is committed to its aim of creating an additional 100,000 hectares of new forests by 2030 through Glastir. We believe that the work completed by FUTUREforest can help to guide that afforestation for the maximum benefit of Wales,” said FUTUREforest Wales project manager Dr Helen Cariss.
She will be telling invited members of the forestry sector and leading policy makers at the Senedd on Wednesday 9 November, “But there is no doubt that Wales’s woodlands and forests will come under increasing pressure due to climate change.
“Forecasts already drawn up by researchers for the 2050s, using a medium
emissions scenario, suggest an increase in mean winter temperatures of 2.0°C, and in mean summer temperatures of 2.5°C, an increase in mean winter precipitation of 14% and an decrease in mean summer precipitation of 17%. Under these conditions, we would experience more frequent droughts and flooding.
“Accompanying these shifting weather patterns is an increased risk of pests and disease, which will threaten both native and non-native trees, potentially damaging our biodiversity and timber productivity.
“But, thanks to FUTUREforest, we are aware of the threats that face us as we have seen some of the effects that have impacted other regions of Europe which are already dealing with the consequences of climate change.”
Forest Research in Wales is currently trialling ways in which green engineering, such as riparian tree planting and creating woody debris dams, can help reduce the risk of flooding in Wales.
Latest figures from Environment Agency Wales show that one in six properties in Wales is at risk of flooding - over 375,000 properties in total.
“This problem is not going to go away, and the green engineering methods of flood control can provide cheap, efficient and sustainable techniques to improve our flood defences,” said Dr Cariss.
“Forests and trees also improve water quality by reducing erosion and by filtering pollutants and sediments.”
As well as sharing latest methods from Wales, lessons have been learned from the other six FUTUREforest partner regions.
In Brandenburg, for example, lower rainfall has resulted in water stress in their pine plantations, allowing pests to take hold and decimating forests. Foresters have responded by planting "plastic forests", a mix of species which are not all vulnerable to the same pests.
In the Auvergne, foresters are creating forests with mixed species and mixed age. Planting these diverse forests ensures the future of the forest whatever the climate – if some fail, others with different characteristics will survive.
Meanwhile, in Latvia forest researchers are breeding new strains of their traditional tree species with special characteristics which will enable them to adapt to the changes in climate.
These trees are also expected to lock away carbon more quickly, highly productive species which grow quickly, converting atmospheric carbon into timber which can then be used for construction, replacing high carbon emission concrete and steel structures.
The Forestry, the Future and preparing for Climate Change briefing is at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay, between 10.30am and 3.30pm on Wednesday 9 November.
It will also showcase other work being carried out on climate change by Forestry Commission Wales, including the Woodland Carbon Code, the WEBS 2 wood energy project and the Forest Research in Wales IMPACT pests and climate change project.
An invitation to attend this event is attached.
Contact: Helen Cariss, FUTUREforest, Wales project manager, tel 0300 068 0087 or Guy Pargeter, Taliesin Communications, tel 01970 832375.
NOTES TO EDITORS
FUTUREforest is a three-year INTERREG IVC programme funded by the EU and the Welsh Government. It aims to identify the threats, weaknesses and strengths of Europe’s forest as they face up to climate change; developing best management techniques to guide policy makers and stakeholders.
It also aims to improve and adapt regional and local forest management policies and practices focusing on water balance, soil, biodiversity, timber and non-timber forest products, air quality including carbon sequestration, and natural risk like fires, pests and pathogens.
The objective is to improve the effectiveness of regional development policies and contribute to the economic modernisation and increased competitiveness of Europe through exchange, sharing and transfer of policy experience, knowledge and good practices in woodland management.
The project will provide political decision-makers and other stakeholders in European regions with the knowledge, tools and approaches to enable effective forestry/regional development policies and forest management practices.
It also intends to identify opportunities resulting from climate change including increased biomass production - and therefore carbon sequestration - due to changes in rainfall pattern and higher temperatures.
The partners include Auvergne, France (biodiversity); Brandenburg, Germany (knowledge transfer); Bulgaria (soil protection); Catalonia (natural risks); Latvia (timber production); Slovakia (carbon sequestration). Forestry Commission Wales is responsible for FUTUREforest in Wales.
About 14 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government. Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales