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Climate Matching Tool to help forestry practitioners understand future climate conditions for forests in Europe.

Developing visualisation techniques to communicate to practitioners the urgency and impact of climate change on forests is a challenge. This is because the longer rotation lengths of trees compared to crops requires consideration of the projected climate change over periods of time that can be difficult to comprehend, for example 50 years into the future.

To help forest practitioners understand the anticipated future climate, we developed a Climate Matching Tool (CMT) in B4EST, with additional support from the Forestry Commission.  The CMT is a web-application that can be used on a computer or mobile device.  It aims to enable:

  • forest planners to better understand the changes in future climatic conditions that new forests will experience;
  • tree breeders to identify material that is better suited or matched to future climate conditions;
  • forest managers to select material that is resistant or tolerant of environmental impacts e.g. extremes of frost, drought and heat; and/or biological impacts e.g. changes in the range of pests and pathogens due to climate change that could impact on future managed forests;
  • the range of products from well-managed resilient forests to increase in society and help mitigate climate change.

These issues are particularly important considerations for forest decision makers given the need to make European forests more resilient to the direct and indirect impacts of environmental change and the focus in policy on forest expansion.

The CMT includes two modes of operation, a basic mode for quick analyses (Figure1), and an advanced mode for more complex or detailed enquiries (Figure 2). Both the basic and advanced modes allow the user to:

  • locate and assess where the projected climate of a selected location currently exists (find an analogue of the future climate) or,
  • find and locate in time and space where the climate of selected location will be in the future.

In Europe there is a rich legacy of introduced tree species from the Pacific North West, the first version of the CMT therefore focuses on these two areas. 

The CMT uses a method of matching published in 2005 (Broadmeadow et. al. 2005). It is based on three climatic variables:

  • mean monthly temperature;
  • mean monthly diurnal temperature range;
  • and monthly precipitation.

The data used in the CMT is from the monthly time series of UKCP18 (RCP8.5) that is available at 12 km resolution for Europe, and 60 km globally. This is a high emissions scenario the earth is currently tracking, and makes no assumptions about emissions reductions being effective.  We have downscaled the global data for the Pacific North West to 12 km – the same resolution as Europe.

Basic mode climate matching can be based on 10-year or 30-year climate normal periods from 2001 to 2079, whereas the advanced mode offers 10-year or 30-year climate periods from 1981-2079. Both operating modes allow the selection of precipitation, temperature or both variables on which to match. In advanced mode, climate data for the months or seasons to use in a match can be selected, as may the number of pixels to match. The advanced mode allows the user to switch between Europe and the Pacific North West or both regions to calculate a match, if both regions are selected 10,000 pixels are available to be matched.

A results box is presented following a calculation. The results show the distribution of the ‘best match’ units for the number of pixels selected, and the position of the selected location in the distribution. The result colour rendering can also be switched. Help instructions are available and ‘tool tips’ are shown for each selectable drop-down box.

Figure 1. Basic mode calculation of analogue climates of projected 2071-2079 climates in southern England
Figure 2: Areas of Europe with a projected temperature climate in 2071-2079 similar to that in Barcelona in the 2011-2020 current climate.

Broadmeadow, M.S.J., Ray, D., Samuel, C.J.A., 2005. Climate change and the future for broadleaved tree species in Britain. Forestry 78, 145–161. doi:10.1093/forestry/cpi014

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