Projecting Tree Species Composition Changes of European Forests for 2061–2090 Under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 Scenarios

Published on 2019-01-11T11:43:48Z (GMT) by
<p>Climate change poses certain threats to the World’s forests. That is, tree performance declines if species-specific, climatic thresholds are surpassed. Prominent climatic changes negatively affecting tree performance are mainly associated with so-called hotter droughts. In combination with biotic pathogens, hotter droughts cause a higher tree vulnerability and thus mortality. As a consequence, global forests are expected to undergo vast changes in the course of climate change. Changed climatic conditions may on the one hand locally result in more frequent dieback of a particular tree species but on the other hand allow other—locally yet absent species—to establish themselves, thereby potentially changing local tree-species diversity. Although several studies provide valuable insights into potential risks of prominent European tree species, we yet lack a comprehensive assessment on how and to which extent the composition of European forests may change. To overcome this research gap, we here project future tree-species compositions of European forests. We combine the concept of climate analogs with national forest inventory data to project the tree-species composition for the 26 most important European tree species at any given location in Europe for the period 2061–2090 and the two most relevant CMIP5 scenarios RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5. Our results indicate significant changes in European forests species compositions. Species richness generally declined in the Mediterranean and Central European lowlands, while Scandinavian and Central European high-elevation forests were projected an increasing diversity. Moreover, 76% (RCP 4.5) and 80% (RCP 8.5) of the investigated locations indicated a decreasing abundance of the locally yet most abundant tree species while 74 and 68% were projected an increasing tree-species diversity. Altogether, our study confirms the expectation of European forests undergoing remarkable changes until the end of the 21st century (i.e., 2061–2090) and provides a scientific basement for climate change adaptation with important implications for forestry and nature conservation.</p>

Cite this collection

Buras, Allan; Menzel, Annette (2019): Projecting Tree Species Composition Changes of European Forests for 2061–2090 Under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 Scenarios. Frontiers. Collection.