Forestry Commission logo

Climate threats to UK forests set out in national risk assessment

The Government published the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) on 25 January 2012, the first assessment of its kind for the UK and the first in a 5 year cycle.

The CCRA has reviewed the evidence for over 700 potential impacts of climate change in a UK context. Detailed analysis was undertaken for over 100 of these impacts across 11 key sectors, on the basis of their likelihood, the scale of their potential consequences and the urgency with which action may be needed to address them.

The threats and opportunities posed by climate change to the United Kingdom’s forests and woodland are described in the Forestry sector report.

 The risk assessment is a comprehensive analysis of the threats and opportunities faced by a wide range of habitats, landscapes and services over the next century as the climate warms. Expected consequences of a warming climate are rising temperatures, increased periods and severity of drought, and increased incidence and severity of storms and flooding.

The risk assessment was compiled by a consortium that included the Forestry Commission's Forest Research agency. Among the risks identified to forests and forest industries were that:

  • the productivity of commercial tree species could change due to drought, and declining timber yield is particularly likely in England, where, without measures to prevent it, it could decline by between 10 and 25 per cent in South East England by the 2080s; and
  • an increasing threat to trees and woodland from tree pests and diseases, many of which are likely to thrive in warmer conditions.

There are also likely to be a number of opportunities for the forestry sector, including:

  • rising timber yields in Scotland and other areas of the UK where water supply is not limiting; and
  • the ability to plant timber species that have not been suited to the UK’s climate in the past.

The summary report states that;      "Awareness of climate change issues is at a particularly high level in the Forestry Commission, among decision-makers in large organisations active in the sector and among relevant charities and non-governmental organisations. Across the public forest estates, the adoption of adaptive forest management is under active consideration, e.g. in England through implementation of a Climate Change Action Plan."