FORBIO CLIMATE: Adaptation potential of biodiverse forests in the face of climate change

01 December 2013 → 31 August 2018
Federal funding: various
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Ecology
    • Environmental science and management
    • Other environmental sciences
biodiverse forests
Project description

FORBIO CLIMATE FORBIO CLIMATE: Adaptation potential of biodiverse forests in the face of climate change Fed. Wet. Beleid BR/132/A1

Climate change is expected to have a large impact on the distribution, composition and functioning of forest ecosystems
worldwide due to the limited migration and adaptation potential of trees. Creating resistant and resilient forests is thus a
key challenge for forest management. It has been suggested recently that epigenetic mechanisms may increase the
capacity of trees to survive in a changing environment, but the extent and importance of these mechanisms in seedlings
and saplings are still unknown. Research has also shown that more biodiverse ecosystems are better buffered against
disturbances, e.g. because of complementary resource use and lower susceptibility to pest and pathogen attacks. Yet, these
studies were predominantly performed in grasslands. More insight into the adaptive capacity of trees - in their consecutive
life stages (frorn seedling to adult) - and forests to climate change is thus badly needed.
FORB!O Climate wants to scrutinize the adaptive capacity of tree species and predict the future performance of tree
species in Belgium under different scenarios of climate change. The project will focus on oak (Quercus roburlpetraea) and
beech (Fagus sy!vatica), two tree species with high ecological and economic significance in Belgium (and Europe).
FORBIO Climate will capitalize upon two unique research infrastr'-lctures available in Belgium, i.e. the FORBIO
experimental sites and the Observational Biodiversity Platform, to test the following hypotheses: (l} epigenetic inheritance
mechanisms can increase the ad~rtivP c.~r~rity of trpes to c!fmate chanee during the reproduction stage; (2) a.cross
subsequent tree development stages, tree performance in more biodiverse forests is more resistant and resilient to climate
The project is strnctured in five work packages (WPs). \NP1 wii! provide past climate data from selected weather stations
that will be linked to the measurements on seedlings, saplings and mature trees in WP2-4 to assess the effects of climate
variation on tree performance. WP1 will also provide high-resolution simulritions of the future climate by combining the
existing ALADIN model with the SURFEX land surface modelling platform in a new Regional Climate Model. The
simulation results wili be used in WPS to make projections about future tree performance,