Future ecosystem services from European mountain forests under climate change


Ecosystem services (ES) from mountain forests are highly relevant for human societies. ES with a direct economic support function (e.g. timber production), regulatory services (e.g. protection from natural hazards) and cultural services (e.g. recreation) are likely to be affected strongly by a rapidly changing climate. To evaluate whether adverse climate change effects on ES can be counteracted by adapting management, dynamic models and indicator-based assessments are needed. We applied a forest dynamic model in case study areas of four European mountain regions and evaluated the future supply of four ES – timber production, carbon sequestra-tion, biodiversity and protection against natural hazards – using state-of-the-art ES indica-tors. Forest dynamics were simulated under three management scenarios (no management, business-as-usual and alternative management) and five climate change projections for selected representative stand types in each region. We analysed potential trade-offs and syn-ergies between ES and evaluated future changes among regions, forest stands, climate and management scenarios. Impacts of climate change on the provision of multiple ES were found to be highly hetero-geneous and to depend on the region, site and future climate. In the absence of large-scale natural disturbance (not considered), protection services, carbon stock and deadwood abun-dance (proxy for biodiversity) benefitted from no management in all regions. Negative impacts of climate change were evident for the provision of multiple ES but limited to the most severe climate scenarios and low-elevation stands. Synergies and trade-offs between the majority of ES were found to be sensitive to the choice of management strategy and – in some regions – to climate change. Synthesis and applications. Management regimes in European mountain forests should be regionally adapted to stand and site conditions. Although in some cases alternative manage-ment regimes may be more suitable than current management for supporting multiple ecosys-tem services, adaptation options should be evaluated carefully at the local scale due to the highly different magnitude of the impacts of climate change in different regions and along elevation gradients.

Journal of Applied Ecology 54(2), 389-401