Forestry and Peatlands Slovenia
Forestry in numbers
In 2003, 57% of Slovenia’s surface area was covered by forest. Since 1990 Slovenia’s forest coverage has increased by 4%, timber stocks by 42%. The percentage of conifers and deciduous trees in timber stocks is nearly the same, at 48% and 52% respectively (1).
Vulnerabilities - Overview
The increased vulnerability of forests (and people) with respect to climate change refers to several impacts (24,30):
- 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 (15).
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 (24).
Vulnerabilities - Slovenia
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).
Maintaining a considerable share of conifers in Slovenian forests may not be feasible under climate change, especially at lower elevations where foresters should consider alternative management strategies. In the second half of this century higher temperatures favor growth of European beech, in contrast to drought-induced growth reductions in both silver fir and Norway spruce conifers, especially at low elevations (34).
Most of Slovenia’s forest will be exposed to stresses due to climate change. Low and medium high sites are particularly vulnerable, where the composition of the forests in past centuries has been changed by man through the introduction of spruces that are otherwise found in cooler climes. The reduced possibilities for adaptation mean that the damage caused by climate change will be particularly great in areas with pure forest composition (spruce forest), and isolated forests with poorer environmental conditions. It is anticipated that the forests most at risk will be conifers, particularly fir and spruce. The general conditions in the forest eco-systems will change concurrently with the change in forest composition, while higher temperatures and longer dry periods will increase the risk of forest fires (1).
Climate warming effects on forest and semi-natural habitats in Slovenia have been studied. These studies indicated that until 2040 the potential forest vegetation community in Slovenia might be changed on 62% to 82% of all forest sites, depending on the climate change scenario, potentially leading to a widespread decline of forests (32). Potential tree species decline in Slovenia until the year 2100 has been modeled. According to these results, the abundance of the three structurally most important species may potentially be reduced by 54% to 97%, depending on the climate change scenario and the species. On the other hand, growing stock of some thermophiluous tree species will increase (varying between 20% and 139%) (33).
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 (4). Temperate forests are dominated by broad-leaf species with smaller amounts of evergreen broad-leaf and needle-leaf species (5). 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 (6).
Forest productivity has been increasing in western Europe (7). This is thought to be from increasing CO2 in the atmosphere (8), anthropogenic nitrogen deposition (9), warming temperatures (10), and associated longer growing seasons (11).
Most models predict continuing trends of modestly increasing forest productivity in Western Europe over this century (12). 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 (13). 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 (14).
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 (15).
The ranges of northern temperate forests are predicted to extend into the boreal forest range in the north and upward on mountains (16). The distribution of temperate broadleaved tree species is typically limited by low winter temperatures (17). 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 (18) are known to be robust carbon sinks, although increased temperature may reduce this effect through loss of carbon from soils (19). Weaker carbon sinks or even carbon losses are seen for temperate forests in areas prone to periodic drought, such as southern Europe (20).
Models suggest that the greatest climate change threat to temperate forest ecosystems is reduced summer precipitation, leading to increased frequency and severity of drought (21). 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 (22). Together, these related effects can potentially change large areas of temperate forest ecosystems from carbon sinks to sources.
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 (31).
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% (23).
It is possible to adapt forests to climate change to some extent. The measures include provisions to preserve forest vegetation, preventing progressive forest succession onto abandoned agricultural land, and directing artificial restocking of forests from conifers to deciduous trees, which will demand the development of new technologies to grow deciduous saplings (1).
A methodology must be prepared immediately to categorise forest composition and their growing sites according to sensitivity to the forecast climate changes, and produce a cartographic record of forest composition and growing sites with respect to that sensitivity. Increased forest biomass will absorb more carbon that would otherwise increase global warming in the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. All measures to increase forests will be beneficial, although the level of natural forest or naturally adapted forest in Slovenia is generally high (1).
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 (28).
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 (25). Adaptive management is a systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of operational programmes (26). 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 (27).
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 (24).
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 (24).
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 (28).
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 (29).
The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Slovenia.
- Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning (2006)
- Lasch et al.(2002), in: European Environment Agency (EEA) (2005)
- Alcamo et al. (2007)
- 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)
- Kutnar et al. (2009), in: Kobler and Kutnar (2010)
- Kobler and Kutnar (2010)
- Mina et al. (2017)