rising summer temperatures at lower altitudes in the forests could kill off most of the norway spruce

Climate change a risk to survival of long-lived Norway spruce

rising summer temperatures at lower altitudes in the forests could kill off most of the norway spruce
Conifers in the Urseren valley, Swiss Alps. Rising summer temperatures at lower altitudes in the forests could kill off most of the Norway spruce. Photograph: Alamy

The mainstay of the Swiss forestry industry is in danger of dying out this century because of warmer temperatures

August 17, 2017 — The Swiss, who are more aware of climate change than the average Briton because of their disappearing glaciers and snow cover, are also worried about their trees, particularly the Norway spruce.

The Norway spruce is the mainstay of the Swiss forestry industry but is in danger of dying out this century because of warmer temperatures.

This spruce is common in Britain, best known perhaps as the classic Christmas tree, but also as a favored habitat for the red squirrel. What the Swiss have discovered is that an increase in temperature and summer droughts expected this century is likely to kill off most of this spruce in their country.

Another important tree to the Swiss, the European beech, is also vulnerable to extra warmth and heat. Trees can adapt to climate change but in both these species there is about a 100-year time lapse between generations, so with rapid climate change there is not enough time for adaptations.

The Swiss are advocating taking seeds of spruce or beech from warmer valley bottoms and planting them higher up the mountains, or importing specimens of these trees from other countries where over centuries they have adapted to warmer drier conditions.

The alternative, to save the Swiss forestry industry, is to switch to planting other species able to thrive in harsher conditions.

The beech has also been identified by the UK’s Forestry Commission as the native species most likely to suffer from a warmer, drier, climate. But there has been nothing like the stark warning that has come from Switzerland. Perhaps the time has come for a closer look at the problem.


guardian_64 by Paul Brown | The Guardian