Forests in Switzerland can adapt to a certain extent to climate change but will need forward-thinking management to remain productive and provide ecological services, say experts.
The Swiss environment ministry and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) have presented key recommendations based on a seven-year research programme dedicated to understanding how best to help Swiss forests weather climate change.
At a press conference in Birmensdorf, Zurich on Monday, the study leaders said that the results provide a first comprehensive view for central Europe of the impacts of climate change on forest species, and the multiple services that forests provide.
They said that climate change will have a profound impact on Swiss forests, resulting notably in the shifting of vegetation zones some 500-700 metres (1,640-2,297 feet) higher in altitude, as well as more frequent periods of drought, forest fires and pest infestations.
Trees that germinate and begin growing in Switzerland today will already experience a marked change in climate during their lifetime, the researchers said. They emphasised that adapting our forest management practices will be essential to helping Swiss forests survive climate change, and continue to provide the key services humans rely on, such as wood production and shelter from natural hazards.