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Forestry and Peatlands

Forestry in numbers

45% of Russia is forests, 3% is waters, 13% is agricultural lands, 19% is reindeer pastures, and 19% is other lands (1). Russia’s large forested region, called the taiga, comprises an area about the size of the United States and contains primarily coniferous trees (80%) such as spruce, cedar, larch, and fir (1,2). The region includes most of European Russia, and about one-third of Russia’s people live there. The annual average temperature of this region is below freezing; the northern part of this region is one of the coldest inhabited areas on Earth. The steppes, often imaged as typical Russian landscape, are treeless, grassy plains occasionally interrupted by mountain ranges.

Peatlands in numbers

The total area of bogs (peat layer > 30 cm) and wetlands (peat layer < 30 cm) in Russia is 369.1 M ha or 21.6% of the territory of the country. The most of the peat covered wetlands are located in the Asian part of the country (84%), in the area of permafrost (73%), and the taiga zone (71%). In the European part of Russia bogs cover 58.8 M ha (31).

Vulnerabilities in Russia

For the territory of Russia, global climate change in the next 30–40 years would not result in an abrupt deterioration of conditions required for normal growth and development of main forest forming species. However, expected changes could disrupt the interrelationship between forest species at a stage of natural forest regeneration after cuttings, fires, in the areas of impact of forest diseases and pests (31).

At the same time, changes in forest species structure have been noted in the Central Chernozem Reserve in the forest-steppe zone of the country that is linked to the change in amount of precipitation. Drying of oak forests is observed over the territory of reserve. The expansion of upper forest boundary in alpine areas is also considered as one of consequences of climate change. The replacement of vegetation cover by upper forest border has been already identified for highlands in the Southern Urals (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).

Non-timber products

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).


In Russia the living conditions of the main forestry species will probably not deteriorate. Global climate changes could lead to changes in competition relations between forestry species. In this way, changes probably would appear in the natural reforestation processes in the boreal forest zone. The greatest changes may occur in the forest tundra and north taiga. In the north and middle taiga the influence of warming and prolongation of the vegetation period causes increase in the growth rate. Under warming with the increase in the average summer temperature by 10⁰C, the growth rate increases by 12-15%. However, in the south taiga zone this effect is 3-4 times less than in the north. The correspondent warming reply of the mixed forests is about 3–8%. In contrary, in the forest-steppe zone warming can cause a little decrease in the growth rate (1).

Vulnerabilities – Temperate forests in Europe

Present situation

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.

Carbon sinks/sources

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.

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 in Russia

The major measures in forest adaptation to climate change include (31):

  • creation of conditions for growth and regular development of forest plantations, natural seeding and undergrowth. The Forest Service recommends a careful selection of terms of planting, quality planting material, opportune maintenance and management cutting in young stands (lightening and thinning);
  • decrease of fire risk in forests during arid season: propagation, development of fire prevention barriers, building roads, undertaking preventive fires, creation of fire control system, introduction of technical devices for fire detection and other activities;
  • reduction of the population of pests and weakening their impact on forests. Detection and elimination of forest pest outbreaks;
  • measures against fungi diseases of forest plantations and young stands;
  • enforcement of quarantine measures in silviculture within preparation of seeds and planting material in nurseries;
  • introduction of adaptive measures in forestry carried out to take account of climate change.

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).

Replacement of needle-leaved tree species by broad-leaved species

The boreal forest is experiencing higher rates of warming than any other forested region on the planet (33). Boreal forest fires not only impact greenhouse gas emissions, they also impact human health and safety, damage physical infrastructure, and result in losses of industrial timber. For instance, the 2010 wildfires around Moscow (Russia) were linked to roughly 11,000 deaths through their effect on air pollution (34). The 2016 Fort McMurray fire in Canada resulted in estimated losses of CAD$4.6 billion (32).

In 2015, needle-leaved forests represented 54% of the boreal biome. It is argued that increasing the broad-leaved tree composition is an effective way to adapt to the increased regional fire risk from climate change (32). Because of their higher leaf moisture content and lower flammability, broad-leaved tree species are less likely to burn than needle-leaved (35). Pure broad-leaved stands are about 24 times less likely to burn in a stand-replacing event than pure needle-leaf stands (36). Reducing the risk of wildfires (with regards to both frequency and spread) in boreal biomes through increased broad-leaved tree composition is therefore a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (32). Because of the higher year-round albedos of deciduous broad-leaved forests compared
 to evergreen needle-leaved forests, the earth would absorb less solar energy, thus having a cooling effect throughout the boreal zone (37).

A shift from mature needle-leaved to mature broad-leaved forest can reduce the fire risk between three to five times for many boreal forest regions (36). This shift can be made as part of regular management activities in actively managed forests. In southern Canada, for instance, converting just 0.1-0.2% of forested area per year, starting in 2020, may
 even be sufficient to mitigate the expected increase in fires due to climate change, scientists state (38).

Adaptive management

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 (27). 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 Russia.

  1. Russian Federation,Interagency Commission of the Russian Federation on Climate Change Problems (1995)
  2. US National Intelligence Council (2009)
  3. Walter (1979), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  4. Melillo et al. (1993), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  5. Reich and Frelich (2002), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  6. Carrer and Urbinati (2006), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  7. Field et al. (2007b), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  8. Hyvönen et al. (2007); Magnani et al. (2007), both in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  9. Marshall et al. (2008), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  10. Chmielewski and Rötzer (2001); Parmesan (2006), both in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  11. Alcamo et al. (2007); Field et al. (2007b); Alo and Wang (2008), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  12. Lucht et al. (2006); Scholze et al. (2006); Alo and Wang (2008), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  13. 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)
  14. Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  15. Iverson and Prasad (2001); Ohlemüller et al. (2006); Fischlin et al. (2007); Golubyatnikov and Denisenko (2007), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  16. Perry et al. (2008), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  17. Liski et al. (2002), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  18. Piao et al. (2008), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  19. Morales et al. (2007), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  20. Christensen et al. (2007); Fischlin et al. (2007); Meehl et al. (2007); Schneider et al. (2007), all in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  21. Hanson and Weltzin (2000), in: Fischlin (ed.) (2009)
  22. Karjalainen et al. (2003); Nabuurs et al. (2002); Perez-Garcia et al. (2002); Sohngen et al. (2001), in: Osman-Elasha and Parrotta (2009)
  23. Innes (ed.) (2009)
  24. Ogden and Innes (2007), in: Innes (ed.) (2009)
  25. BCMOF (2006a), in: Innes (ed.) (2009)
  26. Holling (1978); Lee (1993, 2001), all in: Innes (ed.) (2009)
  27. Roberts (ed.) (2009)
  28. Keskitalo (2008), in: Roberts (ed.) (2009)
  29. Kirilenko and Sedjo (2007)
  30. Boisvenue et al. (2006)
  31. Russian Federation, Interagency Commission of the Russian Federation on Climate Change (2002)
  32. Astrup et al. (2018)
  33. Gauthier et al. (2015), in: Astrup et al. (2018)
  34. Shaposhnikov et al. (2014), in: Astrup et al. (2018)
  35. Kasischke et al. (2010), in: Astrup et al. (2018)
  36. Bernier et al. (2016), in: Astrup et al. (2018)
  37. Bright et al. (2017), in: Astrup et al. (2018)
  38. Girardin and  Terrier (2015), in: Astrup et al. (2018)

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