Department of Forest Ecology and Soils
Factsheet Climate
Forestry is especially challenged in regard to climate change: due to the long production periods, changes in climatic conditions must already be taken into account during stand establishment and treatment.

Forest sciences should deliver treatment recommendations for forest management in future climatic conditions. Climate projections for individual sites contain a considerable uncertainty, much like the predictability of related pest pressure and tree species composition. The treatment recommendations must therefore follow a general approach and can only partially serve forest managers as concrete implementation measures.

Increasing and new pests

The fall webworm has increasingly appeared in Austria over the past few years

Climate change produces winners and losers. In places where the productivity of forests is restricted by short vegetation periods, medium term increases in increment can be expected. In many mountain forests the productivity will increase.

However an increase in pest pressure in mountain forests can also be expected, which would minimize or neutralize the advantages of the longer production periods. In sites at lower altitudes it can be expected that drought periods and pests reduce productivity.

Drought stress can make trees more susceptible to pest infestation. Many pests profit from higher temperatures, some will have an increase in their distribution range, or it will shift. A cross-border pest monitoring has been carried out at the BFW for many years, in order to adequately prepare for future problems.   

Tree species for future climate conditions

A central topic is the suitability of tree species for future climate conditions. The INTERREG project Manfred showed that the dominance of tree species would shift geographically. It was forecast that for example the distribution range of Spruce would decrease. The possible destabilisation of mountain forests and the safeguarding of their protective function will increase in importance. Multiple forest genetics projects are underway at the BFW, which examine whether the genetic diversity of spruce is sufficient to cope with the future local conditions. 

Climate manipulation experiments and monitoring

How does climate change actually impact the forest? In assessing future conditions one is often dependent upon expert knowledge and the results of models. In order to examine these assumptions, field investigations are neccesary. The BFW operates a test facility at Mühleggerköpfl/ Achenkirch (Tirol), at which future climate conditions are simulated and the impacts upon the forest soil are measured.

A second approach to record the climatic effect is monitoring. The BFW runs various monitoring programmes from the nationwide inventory to intensive observation plots on selected sites. Thereby, the condition of the forests is observed by means of certain measurement parameters over a long period, and the impact of various factors is characterised. Climate change is one of the most significant influencing factors on the forest ecosystem alongside management, deposition, and aging effects.

Measuring soil temperature

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