Climate changes “were identified as a key driver” behind the growing destruction wrought by bark beetles, wildfires and windthrow, according to the European Forest Institute. “Windthrow” is the technical term for trees uprooted or broken by the wind. Such damage has accelerated as Europe’s climate system has undergone more rapid changes.
“Disturbances such as windthrow and forest fires are part of the natural dynamics of forest ecosystems, and are not a catastrophe for the ecosystem,” says lead researcher, Rupert Seidl, senior scientist at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.
“However,” he added, “these disturbances have intensified considerably in recent decades, which increasingly challenges the sustainable management of forest ecosystems.”
The EFI’s report, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, calculates that between 2002 and 2010, 56 million cubic meters of European timber were damaged every year. The Institute predicts that, in the next 20 years, an additional million cubic meters of timber will be damaged annually unless climate conditions stabilize.
This state will only be exacerbated as more trees die from climate-related fluctuations. Dying trees release their stored carbon, which offsets the gains made by planting new trees. The study’s writers warn that this carbon cycle feedback will need to be dealt with if forest management is to improve.