Assessing risk and adaptation options to fires and windstorms in European forestry

  • Schelhaas M
  • Hengeveld G
  • Moriondo M
 et al. 
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Risks can generally be described as the combination of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Using this framework, we evaluated the historical and future development of risk of fire and wind damage in European forestry at the national level. Fire risk is expected to increase, mainly as a consequence of an increase in fire hazard, defined as the Fire Weather Index in summer. Exposure, defined as forest area, is expected to increase slightly as a consequence of active afforestation and abandonment of marginal agricultural areas. Adaptation options to fire risk should therefore aim to decrease the vulnerability, where a change in tree species from conifers to broadleaves had most effect. Risk for wind damage in forests is expected to increase mainly as a consequence of increase in exposure (total growing stock) and vulnerability (defined by age class and tree species distribution). Projections of future wind climate indicate an increase in hazard (storminess) mainly over Western Europe. Adaptation options should aim to limit the increase in exposure and vulnerability. Only an increase in harvest level can stop the current build-up of growing stock, while at the same time it will lower vulnerability through the reduction of the share of old and vulnerable stands. Changing species from conifers to broadleaves helps to reduce vulnerability as well. Lowering vulnerability by decreasing the rotation length is only effective in combination with a high demand for wood. Due to data limitations, no forecast of future fire area or damaged timber amount by storms was possible.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Forest fire
  • Forestry
  • Natural disturbance
  • Windstorm

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