Forestry and Peatlands Greece
Forestry in numbers
Forests cover 19% of the total area of the country. Coniferous forests represent 38% of forest land while the rest 62% is covered by broadleaves forests. Other wooded land represents 25% of the total area of Greece. According to the results of the First National Forest Inventory, the forests and other wooded land in Greece cover 6.5 Mha, of which 3.4 Mha are considered as productive forests. The majority of forest and other wooded land in Greece are located in the mountainous areas of the country (1).
Forest management practices during the 20th century were focussed on the protection of soil and of water resources. However, the productivity of Greek forests is lower compared to European average values. This is due to the low density, quality and quantity of growing stock, a result of human induced activities of the past as wildfires, grazing, illegal felling, as well as the lack of systematic silvicultural treatment (1).
Timber production coming from state and non state forests has fallen considerably during the last years – by 50% from 1990 to 2003. This reduction, that is sharper in fuel wood category than in commercial harvest, is due mainly to the substitution of wood as heating source by liquid fuels and electricity, the urbanization and the low competitiveness of Greek timber in the international market. Industrial round wood accounts for 35% of the total timber production and is considerably lower than fuel wood. Saw logs production is even smaller and accounts for 15% of the total yield (1).
Employment in the forestry sector refers to a total number of 26,000 employees, 4,000 of which are permanent staff and the rest are seasonally occupied personnel. Employment in the forestry sector decreased by approximately 30% during the last decade. The low contribution of the forest sector to the GDP is due to the fact that the forests of the country are of low productivity and their role is primary protective (1).
Vulnerabilities - Greece
Between now and 2100 coniferous and broadleaf evergreen forests will expand by 2% to 4%, while the forests of spruce, fir, beech and black pine will shrink by 4% to 8%, depending on climate change scenario (SRES Β2 or Α2) for 2100. ... For 2100 a reduction of timber production is expected of 27% (Β2) to 35% (Α2) (16).
Vulnerabilities - Overview
The increased vulnerability of forests (and people) with respect to climate change refers to several impacts (8,14):
- 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 (6).
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 (8).
Vulnerabilities - Mediterranean
About 30% of Europe is covered by forests. Under a warmer climate, it is expected that the northern range limits of most native tree species in Europe will expand. The southern boundary of some species will shift to north specifically at the boundary of steppe and forest zones. Limited moisture resulting from increasing temperature and possible reduced summer rainfall may lead to productivity declines in central and southern Europe. Summer temperature rise and reduction of precipitation may further increase fire risk (2). Forest productivity and total biomass is likely to increase in the north and decrease in central Europe, while tree mortality is likely to accelerate in the south (3).
Among all European regions, the Mediterranean appears most vulnerable to global change. Multiple potential impacts are related primarily to increased temperatures and reduced precipitation. The impacts included water shortages, increased risk of forest fires, northward shifts in the distribution of typical tree species, and losses of agricultural potential. Mountain regions also seemed vulnerable because of a rise in the elevation of snow cover and altered river runoff regimes (4).
A major concern is raised by the highly fragmented conditions of forest stands in the Mediterranean zone; the lack of “green” connections and corridors in the Mediterranean landscape may become very harmful in the future environment if the present forest vegetation may be required to migrate towards more suitable areas (5).
Vulnerabilities – Subtropical dry forests in Europe
Subtropical dry forests occur in parts of Europe with at least eight months of over 10°C: parts of Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. These regions have hot dry summers and humid mild winters, with annual rainfall in the 400–900 mm range (6).
Subtropical species are partly already well adapted to warm and dry climates. However, many subtropical species now exist in highly fragmented environments as islands of natural forest amongst oceans of agricultural land. Species at a particular location may not have access to new sites where they would be better adapted to the new climatic conditions. Less tolerant species may then decrease in abundance and hereby create for other, more tolerant resident species opportunities to become more abundant because of reduced competition (6).
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 (15).
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% (7).
Adaptation strategies - Forest management measures in general
Measures such as the establishment of migration corridors, connecting nature reserves, may assist the predicted poleward migration of tree species. Also, forest management should focus on reducing stress from external sources, such as extreme events and disturbances. Some additional management options reported for promoting adaptation are: high-quality genetic selection or selection of trees from specific varieties/origins; promotion of mixed-species forests; decrease of the area of monocultures; reducing the threats of pests and diseases; afforestation; fire prevention (12).
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 (9). Adaptive management is a systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of operational programmes (10). 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 (11).
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 (8).
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 (8).
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 (12).
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 (13).
The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Greece.
- Hellenic Republic, Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works of Greece (2006)
- Lasch et al.(2002), in: European Environment Agency (EEA) (2005)
- Alcamo et al. (2007)
- Schröter et al. (2005)
- Kellomäki et al. (2000)
- 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)
- Bank of Greece (2011), in: Shoukri and Zachariadis (2012)