Losers and bigger losers: Impact of climate change on European forest trees

Study shows that for forest trees in Europe climate change is a losing game

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 1,848,587 species occurrences
European larch (Larix decidua) by Nicolas Zwahlen via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Not just about temperature and precipitation, the effects of climate change can also be catastrophic storms, fires and pest outbreaks. Among European trees, a new study suggests that warming climates will have varying effects, effectively making some species "winners" and other "losers".

Based on occurrence data from GBIF.org and other sources, reseachers built species distribution models for 12 European forest tree species using bioclimatic variables now and in three future projections. The species showed quite different responses to climate change, however, roughly dividing into two groups according to fraction of current distribution threatened under future climates: less than 50 per cent–mainly mid-to-late-successional species (e.g. beech, ash and oak)–and more than 50 per cent–mainly pioneer and coniferous species (e.g. larch, silver birch and Norway spruce).

Faced with changing climate conditions, most studied species however, are likely to experience significant net losses in suitable habitat, especially for the species with the northern-most distributions. In conclusion, the future for Europeans forest trees appears to have no winners–only losers.

Link to original article

Dyderski MK, Paź S, Frelich LE and Jagodziński AM (2017) How much does climate change threaten European forest tree species distributions? Global Change Biology. Wiley 24(3): 1150–1163. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13925.