IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

12.5.3 Mountains and sub-Arctic regions

Mountainous and sub-Arctic regions have only a limited number of adaptation options. In northern Europe it will become necessary to factor in the dissipation and eventual disappearance of permafrost in infrastructure planning (Nelson, 2003) and building techniques (Mazhitova et al., 2004). There are few obvious adaptation options for either tundra or alpine vegetation. It may be possible to preserve many alpine species in managed gardens at high elevation since many mountain plants are likely to survive higher temperatures if they are not faced with competition from other plants (Guisan and Theurillat, 2005). However, this option remains very uncertain because the biotic factors determining the distribution of mountain plant species are not well known. Another minimal adaptation option is the reduction of other stresses on high elevation ecosystems, e.g., by lessening the impact of tourism (EEA, 2004b). Specific management strategies have yet to be defined for mountain forests (Price, 2005).

12.5.4 Forests, shrublands and grasslands

Since forests are managed intensively in Europe, there is a wide range of available management options that can be employed to adapt forests to climate change. General strategies for adaptation include changing the species composition of forest stands and planting forests with genetically improved seedlings adapted to a new climate (if the risk of genetically modified species is considered acceptable) (KSLA, 2004). Extending the rotation period of commercially important tree species may increase sequestration and/or the storage of carbon, and can be viewed as an adaptation measure (Kaipainen et al., 2004). Adaptive forest management could substantially decrease the risk of forest destruction by wind and other extreme weather events (Linder, 2000; Olofsson and Blennow 2005; Thurig et al., 2005). Strategies for coniferous forests include the planting of deciduous trees better adapted to the new climate as appropriate, and the introduction of multi-species planting into currently mono-species coniferous plantations (Fernando and Cortina, 2004; Gordienko and Gordienko, 2005).

Adaptation strategies need to be specific to different parts of Europe. The range of alternatives is constrained, among other factors, by the type of forest. Forests that are already moisture limited (Mediterranean forests) or temperature limited (boreal forests) will have greater difficulty in adapting to climate change than other forests, e.g., in central Europe (Gracia et al., 2005). Fire protection will be important in Mediterranean and boreal forests and includes the replacement of highly flammable species, regulation of age-class distributions, and widespread management of accumulated fuel, eventually through prescribed burning (Baeza et al., 2002; Fernandes and Botelho, 2004). Public education, development of advanced systems of forest inventories, and forest health monitoring are important prerequisites of adaptation and mitigation.

Productive grasslands are closely linked to livestock production. Dairy and cattle farming may become less viable because of climate risks to fodder production and therefore grasslands could be converted to cropland or other uses (Holman et al., 2005). Grassland could be adapted to climate change by changing the intensity of cutting and grazing, or by irrigating current dryland pastures (Riedo et al., 2000). Another option is to take advantage of continuing abandonment of cropland in Europe (Rounsevell et al., 2005) to establish new grassland areas.