Europe’s beech forests threatened by climate change

A new study finds that climate change could significantly reduce beech trees’ growth across most of the continent this century. Forest dieback may follow, the researchers warn.

Beech forests in Europe have far-reaching benefits. Like many other forests, they provide important habitat for wildlife and contribute to the water and carbon cycle. Beech forests are also economically important as a source of timber and are socially valued as spaces for recreation.

This new pan-European study predicts that climate change will reduce these benefits by restricting the growth of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica L.) in most European countries. Previous studies have shown the effects of climate change on beech trees, but only at a regional level. The study provides a large-scale analysis, encompassing the full range of the species in Europe.

The researchers began by building a comprehensive picture of which climatic or geographic factors affect beech growth, focusing on 21 possible influences. They related these factors to the width of 780 000 tree rings, taken from 5800 trees at 324 sites across Europe, and which grew during two periods: 1955–1985 and 1986–2016.

Temperatures increased by 1°C in many European regions between these two 31-year periods. In fact, 1986–2016 was the warmest 31-year period in Europe in the past 500 years.

Download the Study: HERE

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