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Europe´s eyes on Earth to combat climate change effects in forests

A new publication identified end-user needs and opportunities for the use of climate data in the forestry sector.

The changing climate and increasing disturbance risks due to extreme weather events present major challenges to the forestry sector in Europe. Besides affecting forest productivity, observed effects of climate change include changes in tree growth patterns, drought induced mortality and species distribution shifts. Despite being dramatically impacted by climate change, forests also play a major role in mitigating its effects.

Using climate information in forestry decision-making processes is key to increase the ability to adapt to climate change. Climate data can serve forestry stakeholders in assessing the habitat suitability of different tree species and support management against droughts and pests. Also, the provision of climate change projections to the forestry sector is valuable for long-term decisions on planting strategies and exploitation plans. At the same time, medium-term decisions, such as harvest operations, postponed/anticipated planting, soil treatment methods, timber transportation etc., can be informed by seasonal forecasts. Interestingly, the recent policy ambitions put in motion by the European Commission, through its European Green Deal objectives, highlight the importance of using climate change data.

The European Union provides climate change data and services through its Copernicus programme, the European Union´s Earth Observation programme. The vast majority of data delivered by the Copernicus programme are made available to any citizen and organisation around the world on a free, full and open access basis. Copernicus Climate Change Services (C3S) is one of the six services of the EU’s Copernicus Programme and is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission. The C3S provide information about the past, present and future climate. That is impressive – but does this information get to those who work in the forest?

Although the importance of climate data is recognised by forestry researchers, forestry practitioners currently work mainly with land cover information, largely neglecting climate data. Consequently, it is important to understand the necessities of forestry end-users to integrate climate change effects into forestry decision-making processes and thus improve the ecological resilience of forests. Through interviews, surveys and dedicated workshops, forestry end-user needs and requirements, in relation to climate change data, were collected. Those requirements are categorised through a SWOT analysis to identify perceived Strengths, Weaknesses, external Opportunities, and Threats to the increased use of climate change data in the forestry sector. The results helped to define how future integrated climate services can be developed – and they emphasized the current limitations experienced by the users.

Our analysis suggests that: (i) new governance regimes which can facilitate the development and update of climate services by public and private actors should be supported, (ii) integrated climate services including both climate and non-climate data should be further developed and promoted, (iii) developing key partnerships is crucial, especially when intermediaries between data providers and final users are missing. These findings are relevant to close the gap between demand and supply of climate services for the forestry sector and further explore the value of climate data in serving a wide array of forestry stakeholders.

Read the full open access article here.


Fraccaroli, C., Marini Govigli, V., Briers, S., Peña Cerezo, N., Paz Jiménez, J., Romero, M., Lindner, M., Martínez de Arano, I., 2021. Climate data for the European forestry sector: From end-user needs to opportunities for climate resilience. Clim. Serv. 23, 100247.

Featured image: Andreas Riedelmeier / Pixabay


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