When the climate changes, planning support is needed to meet increased risks

Insect infestations and storm damage are highly topical issues for forest owners, and climate change is predicted to affect the forests of the future. Karin Öhman’s research group at SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) aims to facilitate strategic decisions in the planning of future forest stands, and to develop systems that can handle both risks and uncertainties.

Although climate change is expected to increase growth in boreal forests, this is likely to be limited by damage caused by various disturbances such as storms, fires or extreme weather events.

Karin Öhman, SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences). Photographer: Axel

The Heureka system for forest analysis and planning is well established today, but as more and more data on forest stands and climate change becomes available, the opportunities and expectations, regarding the capability of the future planning system, increase.

This issue is high on the agenda, and a decision was made at the end of 2020 by the board of Mistra Digital Forest, to allocate some of the programme’s strategic reserve to continue the work.

– This funds a pilot project, where the results can be integrated into the Heureka system of today, in parallel with our continuing work for the next generation planning system, says Karin Öhman. She continues;

– In the pilot, we will develop methods to highlight risks in the planning, and to identify the forest owners’ attitude to the risk of damage. We will develop different risk models, for example an index that shows the risk of storm damage. Then we will analyse how the risk of storm damage can be minimised by using different management strategies.

Forest fires and storms are expected to become more common as the climate changes. The image shows forest fires in Sweden in the summer of 2018 taken by the satellite Copernicus Sentinel-2. Photo: The European Space Agency (ESA)

Storm damage is the focus of doctoral student Teresa López-Andújar Fustel’s research, which is carried out at SLU. She has developed an optimisation model that can also be used to reduce the risk of storm damage over time.

– The height of the trees, tree species, the forestry measures taken in one’s own forest and changes in the forest of adjacent properties, are all factors that affect the resistance of the trees to storm damage, Teresa López-Andújar Fustel explains.

How can the risk of wind damage and storm damage be reduced?


Teresa López-Andújar Fustel, doctoral student vid SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences).

– It is important to strive for a gentler landscape regarding height differences between different stands. Another method is to reduce the number of new forest edges, meaning the number of interfaces between felled and growing forest, says Teresa López-Andújar Fustel.

– In the future, forest owners will also need to see what is happening in the surrounding areas, which creates a need for complex planning models. By including risk modelling in the planning process, the chances of adapting forestry for future climate change are increased, Karin Öhman concludes.


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