Large-scale disturbances in forests across Europe represent a growing operational risk for forestry and the wood-processing industry.
The most important causes of large-scale calamities are weather extremes, such as droughts and heavy storms with snow and ice. The significant increase in terms of frequency and severity of such extreme weather events can often be linked to the climate crisis.
One consequence of these extreme weather events is that more breeding material for bark beetles accumulates in the forest. Moreover, the extended dry season and higher temperatures also enable bark beetles to reproduce faster and have more breeding generations per season. Trees that are damaged or weakened, especially due to drought stresses, are more vulnerable to pest infestations and outbreaks, the consequences of which often far exceeds the extent of the primary damage.
In the short term, large-scale calamities lead to an oversupply of damaged wood and strong price fluctuations on the timber market.
For the wood processing industry, such large-scale forest calamities may result in an oversupply of specific wood species and higher costs for logistics and storage. In the long term, more importantly, the security of wood supply for the wood processing sector could be at risk.
From a regional perspective, there are several factors that influence the risk for large-scale climate change-induced disturbances:
- The frequency of extreme weather conditions, particularly spring and summer droughts, as well as windstorms, wet snow and ice;
- The stand conditions and prevalence of monocultures, particularly of spruce and pine in Central Europe, as these are the coniferous tree species most at risk as they are less resistant to changing climate conditions and specifically sensitive to bark beetle outbreaks;
- Resulting in unpredictable supply of wood and biomass relying on spruce and pine due to calamities of these species;
- The long-term suitability of spruce and pine in the particular region due to changing climate conditions.
Based on these factors a detailed Forest Risk Map was developed, jointly by Mondi and scientific partners at the Austrian Research Centre for Forests (BFW) and Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), with financial support of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).