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Biodiversity: climate change and the uncertain future of trees in Europe

Climate change is testing the resilience of Europe’s forests. A recent study from the universities of Vienna and Munich shows that almost one in two tree species may not survive the changed climate conditions. This research points to a serious risk to biodiversity and the stability of forest ecosystems, which is already severely affected by drought and parasites.

Biodiversity: an alarm for biodiversity

Not all tree species are ready to meet the challenges of climate change. Only a few, less than half, show the flexibility needed to adapt to future climate predictions. This situation requires critical reflection on reforestation processes, taking into account the choice of more resilient species to ensure the survival of the forests.

The study looked at 69 tree species across 238,080 sites in Europe and found that only a fraction can adapt to rapid climate changes, ranging from predictions of a colder climate to rising temperatures by the end of the century. In Germany, for example, only ten species per square kilometer are predicted to be able to adapt, less than half the number that could survive under conditions considered ‘stable’.

Biodiversity.  clock trees

One of the most resilient species is the English oak, the most common oak in Europe, which appears to be one of the best equipped to withstand. However, the potential decline of many other species poses a serious threat to the continent’s forests, which have already been weakened by the direct and indirect effects of climate change.

The impact of the research not only concerns the scientific field, but also directly influences environmental policies and forest management practices. Experts suggest that it is not possible to rely solely on a new mix of tree species, but that rapid and targeted actions are needed to mitigate climate change and effectively protect our forests.

Biodiversity.  The tallest trees in the worldThe tallest trees in the world

The situation in Italy reflects a similar urgency. Forests cover about 36.7% of the national territory and are crucial for mitigating extreme climate events, regulating air and soil quality, and absorbing carbon dioxide. For example, the Etna birch, a unique tree in the world, is threatened with extinction due to changing climatic conditions.

The responsibility to protect our forests is enormous, and the decisions made today will impact our ability to maintain healthy, functional forest ecosystems in the future. Forests are not only a haven for biodiversity, but are fundamental to human life on this planet.

What do you think we can do to help protect Europe’s forests in the face of these climate biodiversity challenges?