Forestry and Peatlands Belarus
Forestry Belarus in numbers
The National Forest Stock of the Republic of Belarus comprises, as of January 1st, 2005, 8,335,100 ha or 40.1% of the country’s total area. The forests of Belarus are mostly coniferous, dominated by pine-trees (50.2%) and spruce (10.0%). Small-leaved forests are mostly birch (20.8%), black almond (8.2%), grey almond (2.3%) and asp (2.1%) groves. The broad-leaved forests occupy just around 3.9% of the area, including 3.3% of oak forests (1,31).
The territory of Belarus is located along the border-line between the boreal zone and that of bread-leaved forests; here one can find the boundaries of areas occupied by three forest-forming kinds of wood – the spruce, the grey alder, and the hornbeam. One of the most unfavourable factors negatively influencing the forests is drought, the occurrence frequency of which as well as its intensity has increased recently. As a result, the boreal components of the cover crop get weakened and perish; the size of the taiga and the subtaiga zones is being reduced (31).
Freeze and thaw
Temperature rise for the winter months aggravates wintering conditions for plants by increasing the likelihood of vegetation-provoking thaws. Extreme dry events, above all during summer months, will become more likely because in the context of rising temperatures the amount of precipitation remains practically unchanged during that period. The depth and duration of soil frost penetration in winter will decrease; in some years frost penetration may not even be pronounced. Precipitation increase is small or occurs during winter months when its role as a source of moisture for next-year vegetation is marginal (1).
Water supply will deteriorate due to a generally lower groundwater level over enormous territories as a result of cumulative effects of man- and climate-induced factors. Overwintering conditions for forest vegetation will worsen due to a lack or shorter period of snow cover; in addition the access will worsen to waterlogged cutting areas during winter for wood harvesting machines as a result of increased temperatures, shorter snow cover period and forest road freezing (1).
A change of maturity timing of tree fruit and seeds, and forest berries due to an earlier vegetation start is possible with a range of 10-15 days, and in some years even more compared to the average timing of many years. This event already occurred in certain years of the last decade (1).
The growing risk of emergence and damage of late spring frost may exercise heavy impact on the current growth of oak (early openers), spruce, linden, some other deciduous species, and occasionally lead to nipped flowers and buds of tree fruit and forest berries. This phenomenon has already occurred repeatedly in Belarus over the last decade leading to almost total crop failures of blackberries, red bilberries, blueberries and as a result – to smaller forest revenues and less food for grouse birds and other birds and animals that feed on berries (1).
Pests and diseases
A greater probability of mass breeding of forest pests, both primary leaf and needle eaters (gipsy moth, nun moth, sawfly, burdock borer, tussock moth, tortrix, etc.) and secondary (first of all, eight-toothed bark beetle and its satellites). Certain signs of growing mass breeding spots of forest pests and a number of insect species that do considerable harm to tree stands have already been recorded in the last decade of the last century and early this century (1).
Aerosols and ozone
Increasing concentrations of aerosols and ozone are among the factors affecting productivity in a negative way. Apart from reducing the amount of incoming radiation, these gases produce a negative influence on plant physiological processes during the vegetation period. According to model-based assessments by Russian scientists, an anthropogenic increase of near-surface ozone concentration alone was responsible for a 15% reduction of biomass growth of deciduous trees in the first half of the 1990s in some countries of Western and Central Europe. For Belarus this reduction is estimated at 7-9%. Moving eastward brings these figures down to 6-7% in Russian regions Belarus is bounded by (2,31).
Practically all negative developments related to climate change will be most pronounced in the south of Belarus - Brest and Gomel Polesie; to a lesser degree – in the subzone of hornbeam and oak groves, and will have little impact in the Vitebsk Region and northern districts of the Minsk, Mogilev and Grodno Regions. Although, as the 2000-2002 forest pathology analysis showed, these territories may also become subjected to extreme meteorological and climatic events (droughts, hurricanes, etc.), capable of triggering mass breeding outbreaks of forest pests, first of all the most harmful spruce pest – eight-toothed bark beetle. Additionally spruce, as a tree species, will experience a heavier negative impact of climate change compared to pine (1).
In the country’s southern regions already in 2025 one may expect the decrease in the productivity of pine tree forests by 4-6%, and by 2050 – by 8-10% compared with 1961-1990, with the prolongation of the vegetative period due to an early beginning of the vegetative period not compensating for dry periods in the middle of the vegetative period. On the other hand, the rise in productivity by 4-6% in the northern regions of Belarus is possible (31).
The anticipated changes will most unfavourably influence spruce-tree forests. By 2025 their increment will be reduced by 8-10% in the southern part of the country, while by 2050 this indicator will reach 20% and even in the north increment losses may extend to 6%. The situation may be further aggravated due to the increasing possibility of drought occurrence in summer entailing the demise of spruce-tree plantations; the south-western region of Belarus, therefore (inclusive of the whole Brest region and the southern part of the Grodno region) will turn into zones of risky spruce tree growing. Natural spruce-tree forests growing isolated alongside the edges of the marshes and around the water currents on the lands of excessive moisture in Polesie will become exceptions to the general picture. The only region where the spruce-tree increment is expected to increase is the eastern part of the country characterized by a strong continental climate (31).
One of the very few kinds of wood which will not only preserve its current increment but will also somewhat rise it (to 5%) is the oak-tree, with no essential differences in its sensitivity to climatic change having been discovered regarding the northern and southern parts of Belarus (31).
Benefits for Belarus
Results of some research work carried out in regions with natural-climatic characteristics similar to those of Belarus show that the overall impact of global warming on forestry is favourable. By 2050 the growth of standing timber in Belarus is expected to be more than by 10%. ... A favourable impact is expected of early spring temperatures (in March and April, and in the southern part of Belarus – in February) on the increment of the spruce and the pine throughout the country (31).
The increase in the duration of the vegetative period in certain years is 20-40 days. Taking into account that this increase becomes possible due, first and foremost, to an earlier beginning of the vegetative period, in such years, provided there is enough moisture, one can expect the productivity of plantations to go up by 10-20% (31).
Globally, based on both satellite and ground-based data, climatic changes seemed to have a generally positive impact on forest productivity since the middle of the 20th century, when water was not limiting (30).
Studies carried out using an Automated Regional Ecological Forecasting System (AREFS) with respect to regions having natural and climatic characteristics similar to Belarus showed a generally favourable impact of global warming on forestry. An expected stock increment of standing wood is estimated over 10% by 2050 (1).
From meadows to forests
Because of higher average monthly temperatures in January and February it is expected that snow cover will become thinner, the intensity of spring freshets will lower down, and the dates of them will be shifted. In certain years, floods may become even hardly noticeable due to gradual snow melting during the winter months. As a result degradation of bottomland meadows and their getting overrun with bushes and woody vegetation may become a reality, and the said process is already underway in the flood beds of some rivers. The process of meadow communities getting overrun with bushes and woody vegetation will speed up leading finally to their total disappearance and to the appearance of forests as primary formations. Simultaneously, warmer climatic conditions accompanied by stable moistening increase the growth of grass vegetation, thus raising the productivity of meadows communities (31).
Vulnerabilities - Overview
The increased vulnerability of forests (and people) with respect to climate change refers to several impacts (23,29):
- Forest cover: conversion of forests to non-woody energy plantations; accelerated deforestation and forest degradation; increased use of wood for domestic energy.
- Biodiversity: alteration of plant and animal distributions; loss of biodiversity; habitat invasions by non-native species; alteration of pollination systems; changes in plant dispersal and regeneration.
- Productivity: changes in forest growth and ecosystem biomass; changes in species/site relations; changes in ecosystem nitrogen dynamics.
- Health: increased mortality due to climate stresses; decreased health and vitality of forest ecosystems due to the cumulative impacts of multiple stressors; deteriorating health of forest-dependent peoples.
- Soils and water: changes in the seasonality and intensity of precipitation, altering the flow regimes of streams; changes in the salinity of coastal forest ecosystems; increased probability of severe droughts; increased terrain instability and soil erosion due to increased precipitation and melting of permafrost; more/earlier snow melt resulting in changes in the timing of peak flow and volume in streams. The capacity of the forest ecosystem to purify water is an important service, obviating the cost of expensive filtration plants.
- Carbon cycles: alteration of forest sinks and increased CO2 emissions from forested ecosystems due to changes in forest growth and productivity.
- Tangible benefits of forests for people: changes in tree cover; changes in socio-economic resilience; changes in availability of specific forest products (timber, non-timber wood products and fuel wood, wild foods, medicines, and other non-wood forest products).
- Intangible services provided by forests: changes in the incidence of conflicts between humans and wildlife; changes in the livelihoods of forest-dependent peoples (also a tangible benefit); changes in socio-economic resilience; changes in the cultural, religious and spiritual values associated with particular forests.
Increasing CO2 concentration can affect tree growth through increased photosynthetic rates and through improved water-use efficiency. There will be complex interactions, however: forest growth rates may well be increased in some cases by rising levels of atmospheric CO2, but rising temperatures, higher evaporation rates and lower rainfall may lower growth rates in other cases (14).
Increasingly there are concerns about the productivity of non-timber products such as medicines and foods. Relatively little information is available in the scientific literature about the sustainable management of such products, and even less is known about their vulnerability to climate change (23).
Vulnerabilities – Temperate forests in Europe
In parts of Europe with temperate forests, annual mean temperatures are below 17°C but above 6°C, and annual precipitation is at least 500 mm and there is a markedly cool winter period (3). Temperate forests are dominated by broad-leaf species with smaller amounts of evergreen broad-leaf and needle-leaf species (4). Common species include the oaks, eucalypts, acacias, beeches, pines, and birches.
Many of the major factors that influence these forests are due to human activities, including land-use and landscape fragmentation, pollution, soil nutrients and chemistry, fire suppression, alteration to herbivore populations, species loss, alien invasive species, and now climate change (5).
Forest productivity has been increasing in western Europe (6). This is thought to be from increasing CO2 in the atmosphere (7), anthropogenic nitrogen deposition (8), warming temperatures (9), and associated longer growing seasons (10).
Most models predict continuing trends of modestly increasing forest productivity in Western Europe over this century (11). Projections for the time near the end of the next century generally suggest decreasing growth and a reduction in primary productivity enhancement as temperatures warm, CO2 saturation is reached for photosynthetic enhancement, and reduced summer precipitation all interact to decrease temperate zone primary productivity (12). The projected increased occurrence of pests, particularly in drought-stressed regions, also contributes to decreased long-term primary productivity in some regions of temperate forests (13).
Sensitivity to increasing air pollution loads, particularly nitrogen deposition and tropospheric ozone, will impact large areas of the northern temperate forest over the next century. In the temperate domain, air pollution is expected to interact with climate change; while the fertilization effects from nitrogen deposition are still highly uncertain, pollutants such as ozone are known to diminish primary productivity (14).
The ranges of northern temperate forests are predicted to extend into the boreal forest range in the north and upward on mountains (15). The distribution of temperate broadleaved tree species is typically limited by low winter temperatures (16). Since the latter are projected to rise more rapidly than summer temperatures in Europe and North America, temperate broad-leaved tree species may profit and invade currently boreal areas more rapidly than other temperate species.
Temperate forest regions in the highly productive forests of western Europe (17) are known to be robust carbon sinks, although increased temperature may reduce this effect through loss of carbon from soils (18). Weaker carbon sinks or even carbon losses are seen for temperate forests in areas prone to periodic drought, such as southern Europe (19).
Models suggest that the greatest climate change threat to temperate forest ecosystems is reduced summer precipitation, leading to increased frequency and severity of drought (20). This will probably be most prominent in temperate forest regions that have already been characterized as prone to drought stress, such as southern Europe. Drought-stricken forests are also more susceptible to opportunistic pests and fire (21). Together, these related effects can potentially change large areas of temperate forest ecosystems from carbon sinks to sources.
Benefits for Europe
Timber production in Europe
Climate change will probably increase timber production and reduce prices for wood products in Europe. For 2000–2050 a change of timber production in Europe is expected of -4 to +5%. For 2050–2100 an increase is expected of +2 to +13% (22).
Adaptation strategies for Belarus
Climatic changes dictate the necessity to, first and foremost, adapt the species composition of forests in order a) to prevent mass reproduction of pests and to raise the total resistance of forest ecosystems; b) raise the level of fire safety of forests (31).
Taking into account the arrangements to adapt the forest industry to climatic change, the overall area occupied by coniferous trees may increase by 3.1% by 2025 and by 12.4% by 2050 in comparison with 1961-1990. In the northern and central parts of the country the major increase will be due to the growing size of areas under spruce-tree forests, while in Polesie – under pine-tree forests. An increase of areas under oak-tree forests to 7.7% in 2025 and to 11.6% in 2050 is regarded as possible and it may become possible due, first and foremost, to transforming part of small-leaved forests and spruce-tree forests into mixed spruce-tree-bread-leaved forests. By 2050 areas occupied by ash-tree forests may increase by five times (from 0.4% to 2.1%). Simultaneously, in accordance with the Programme of Adaptation the areas occupied by derivatives of small-leaved communities, such as birch groves, asp groves and grey alder groves will decrease to 9.5%, 0.4%, and 0.4%, respectively. These changes in the structure of the forest fund will allow for increasing the rate of economically valuable forests, primarily, bread-leaved forests, with simultaneously increasing the ability of forest plantations to resist unfavourable environmental factors, both climatic and anthropogenic (31).
Gene pool loss reduction strategy
Impoverishment of the gene pool of forests’ boreal flora and fauna in the context of biodiversity enrichment through thermo- and xerophilous species of European-Small Asian and European Siberian – Aral and Caspian biotic complexes, just like the expansion of forest-steppe and steppe flora into forest ecosystems, are all ecologically negative processes, but so far they do not have any forest management implications of economic relevance (direct losses or benefits). As far as ecological and genetic losses are concerned, they are inevitable, and therefore it is necessary to study this process and develop a corresponding loss reduction strategy (1).
Besides the changes concerning the exploitation of forests and forests restoration process, the Programme of Adaptation also covers (31):
- adaptation of the system of forest husbandry and planning of forestry action;
- adaptation of the system of fire safety;
- peculiar features of forestry action on reclaimed and excessively moistened lands;
- adaptation of the system of forest protection based on changes in the group of main insects-pests and their ability to harm as well as on anticipated changes in phytopathologic situations in forests;
- adaptation of the system of preparing cadres for the national forestry and forest science.
Adaptation strategies - Forest management measures in general
Near-nature forest management and a move away from monocultures toward mixed forest types, in terms of both species and age classes, are advocated. In addition, natural or imitated natural regeneration is indicated as a method of maintaining genetic diversity, and subsequently reducing vulnerability. For management against extreme disturbances, improvements in fire detection and suppression techniques are recommended, as well as methods for combating pests and diseases. It is reported that through stricter quarantine and sanitary management, the impact of insects and diseases can be minimized. The establishment of migration corridors between forest reserves may aid in the autonomous colonization and migration of species in response to climate change (27).
The terms adaptation and adaptive management are often incorrectly used interchangeably. The former involves making adjustments in response to or in anticipation of climate change whereas the latter describes a management system that may be considered, in itself, to be an adaptation tactic (24). Adaptive management is a systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of operational programmes (25). It involves recognizing uncertainty and establishing methodologies to test hypotheses concerning those uncertainties; it uses management as a tool not only to change the system but to learn about the system (26).
Both the climate and forest ecosystems are constantly changing, and managers will need to adapt their strategies as the climate evolves over the long term. An option that might be appropriate today given expected changes over the next 20 years may no longer be appropriate in 20 years’ time. This will require a continuous programme of actions, monitoring and evaluation – the adaptive management approach described above (23).
There is a widespread assumption that the forest currently at a site is adapted to the current conditions, but this ignores the extent to which the climate has changed over the past 200–300 years, and the lag effects that occur in forests. As a result, replacement of a forest by one of the same composition may no longer be a suitable strategy (23).
Adaptation to climate change has started to be incorporated into all levels of governance, from forest management to international forest policy. Often these policies are not adopted solely in response to climate, and may occur in the absence of knowledge about longer-term climate change. They often serve more than one purpose, including food and fuel provision, shelter and minimizing erosion, as well as adapting to changing climatic conditions (27).
Socio-economic and political conditions have significant influences on vulnerability and adaptive capacity. Climate change projections are perceived by many forest managers as too uncertain to support long-term and potentially costly decisions that may be difficult to reverse. Similarly, uncertainty over future policy developments may also constrain action. Finance is a further barrier to implementing adaptation actions in the forest sector (28).
The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Belarus.
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus (2006)
- Loginov (2004), in: Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus (2006)
- Walter (1979), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Melillo et al. (1993), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Reich and Frelich (2002), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Carrer and Urbinati (2006), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Field et al. (2007b), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Hyvönen et al. (2007); Magnani et al. (2007), both in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Marshall et al. (2008), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Chmielewski and Rötzer (2001); Parmesan (2006), both in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Alcamo et al. (2007); Field et al. (2007b); Alo and Wang (2008), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Lucht et al. (2006); Scholze et al. (2006); Alo and Wang (2008), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Williams et al. (2000); Williams and Liebhold (2002); Logan and Powell (2001); Tran et al. (2007); Friedenberg et al. (2008), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Iverson and Prasad (2001); Ohlemüller et al. (2006); Fischlin et al. (2007); Golubyatnikov and Denisenko (2007), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Perry et al. (2008), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Liski et al. (2002), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Piao et al. (2008), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Morales et al. (2007), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Christensen et al. (2007); Fischlin et al. (2007); Meehl et al. (2007); Schneider et al. (2007), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Hanson and Weltzin (2000), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
- Karjalainen et al. (2003); Nabuurs et al. (2002); Perez-Garcia et al. (2002); Sohngen et al. (2001), in: Osman-Elasha and Parrotta (2009)
- Innes (ed.) (2009)
- Ogden and Innes (2007), in: Innes (ed.) (2009)
- BCMOF (2006a), in: Innes (ed.) (2009)
- Holling (1978); Lee (1993, 2001), all in: Innes (ed.) (2009)
- Roberts (ed.) (2009)
- Keskitalo (2008), in: Roberts (ed.) (2009)
- Kirilenko and Sedjo (2007)
- Boisvenue et al. (2006)
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus (2009)