As climate change is dominating the policy agenda on a global level, mountain regions in Europe  are extremely vulnerable to its impacts. Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of ecosystem disturbances and imbalances, jeopardising the economic value and adaptive capacity of these regions. There is a need for changes in forestry polices and management. Limiting the increasing global temperature requires striking a balance between emissions and removals of carbon dioxide (CO2). Therefore, forests are both part of the problem (deforestation) and the solution (sequestration and storage). However, forest ecosystems are also subject to natural disturbances, interacting in complex ways, the frequency of which is increasingly influenced by human activities. The impact of disturbances may surpass tipping points that mark irreversible effects, notably the loss of species diversity or reduced ecosystem resilience. To avoid crossing such thresholds, alternative climate-smart approaches to forest management can be implemented and tested. A climate-smart perspective considers the ecological stability of forests alongside the synergies and trade-offs between developing climate impacts and social dimensions, adaptation, and mitigation effects of forests.

The recently published book is one of the key outputs of the COST Action CA15226, Climate-Smart Forestry in Mountain Regions (CLIMO). Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 COST Action programme, CLIMO has been developing in the last few years as a new concept, which is central to the changes in the way forestry resources are used by the European community.

Considering the growing pressure climate change is posing on mountain regions, there is a need to identify and highlight forest production systems that are resilient to climate-driven disturbances. These climate targets can be mainstreamed through multidisciplinary Climate-Smart Forestry (CSF) paying attention to regional conditions, opportunities, and challenges. This multidisciplinary approach, from tree to landscape level using a variety of tools, was made possible through networking and stakeholder engagement. A three-dimensional approach was presented to enhance adaptation and resilience to climate change within forest ecosystems, optimising the provision of ecosystem services. A new definition of Climate-Smart Forestry advocated by this COST Action, supported by the development of indicators, allowed a balanced understanding of adaptation, mitigation and social dimensions potentials of mountain forests facing climate change, as the benchmark and starting point for discussing assessments of future forests, making a significant contribution to the current debate on the role of forests and the forest sector. CLIMO also contributed to the debate concerning the resilience of forest and the provision of ecosystem services. This way, the seeds of progress in forest practices were sown, which hopefully will germinate into results that contribute to a more sustainable future.

The multiscale and multidisciplinary approach also emphasized the importance of evaluating social-ecological resilience of individual trees and forest stands to climate change. In particular, the Action advanced our understanding on how to assess adaptation and mitigation trade-offs and synergies over time, in forest systems of mountain regions. In addition, a network of about 200 temporary and long-term experimental plots was established, including major forest tree species (beech, spruce, fir). Monitoring tools and advances in forest processes and ecosystem services were also addressed thanks to the collaboration between scientists from different disciplines, which involved colleagues from Brazil and Canada. There is now potential to build process-based monitoring networks and invest in schemes for payment for ecosystem services across multiple regions and continents. All this work culminated  in academic articles, a short promotional film ( and the book, which brought together various authors from different countries on the same topic, highlighting the interdisciplinarity nature of the issue and project. This book is designed for academics and researchers in forestry and related areas, but also provides practical support for forest managers and decision-makers. This comprehensive work on Climate-smart Forestry will hopefully spur wide ranging discussion and create impetus for further work on the application of climate-smart approaches across the globe.

From EFI Project Centre to COST Action

CLIMO was fostered by the EFI Project Centre on Mountain Forests (MOUNTFOR), hosted by the Edmund Mach Foundation (FEM) in San Michele all’Adige (Trento). MOUNTFOR emphasized the regional, European, and global role and outreach of EFI aiming to provide scientific base for sustainable management of mountain forests and initiate expert platforms for multiple stakeholders. It also aimed to define priorities for research agendas to gather information on mountain forest resistance and resilience to climate change and identify pathways to harmonize strategies for mountain forest resources and ecosystem services. MOUNTFOR promoted research networking, knowledge sharing, and advanced learning, which influenced CLIMO. Among other activities, MOUNTFOR established a collaboration with FAO, organizing the 30th Session of the European Forestry Commission Working Party on the Management of Mountain Watersheds (EFC WPMMW) in Pieve Tesino (Italy) (22–24 September 2015). The Working Party meets every two years to exchange information on the management of forests and watersheds, in the context of hazard, risk, and vulnerability in mountain regions, towards strengthening the resilience of mountain areas to climate change and disaster risks, as well as preserving watershed’s provisioning functions in terms of water, wood and energy. The session focused on “Mountain Watersheds and Ecosystem Services: – Balancing multiple demands of forest management in head-watersheds”.

In 2016-2021, CLIMO addressed the complex issue of long-term forest management, while dealing with uncertainties related to the productivity and health of forest ecosystems, and their adaptation to short-term environmental changes. This network, which mobilised more than two hundred researchers from 28 countries, focused on mountain environments, considered as a climate change hotspot.

The full book Climate-Smart Forestry in Mountain Regions is available with open access.

Photo: ©Daniel Prudek /AdobeStock


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