Adapting forests to climate change

A European symposium in Toulouse (France), 19-20 November 2019

A representative of the French National Nature Reserve Massane attended “Adapting forests to climate change: methods, tools, and projects”, a European symposium on forest adaptation organized by the LIFE FORECCAsT project and held in Toulouse, France on 19-20 November 2019.

The presentation given by Massane highlighted the usefulness of natural old-growth forests in the context of climate change. The Massane beech-dominated forest presents an extremely high species richness. This phenomenon is explained by its crossroads biogeographic position. It is also one of the oldest Mediterranean forests. Beech endured there even during the glaciations of the quaternary, and no logging activity has been performed for at least 140 years. As such, the Massane forest is identified by the ATBI (All Taxa of Biodiversity Inventory) as having the world’s highest density of inventoried taxa with more than 8,000 species on only 336 hectares. Massane presents a mosaic of landscapes. All ecological successional stages are represented and half of the species rely on old or dead trees.
It is now well known that functional and species diversity together with special heterogeneity enhance ecosystem functions and services and provide better ecosystem response and resilience to disturbances including climate change. With no direct human intervention, natural selection is the main driving force of this forest. The managing team hypothesizes that this complex ecosystem and the highly diverse genetic pool of the beech will provide the adaptive potential for the forest to overcome climate change challenges. A long-term monitoring activity in the forest is currently evaluating the impact of the latest drought/heat wave episodes on this southern margin beech population.
With less than 0.00045% of the French territory covered by officially unmanaged forest, and in a context where intensive wood production increases, there is a need to actively promote old growth forests for the common good and to raise awareness regarding threats to their survival. The Mediterranean high ecological value forest network Medforval, among other goals, aims to alert people to the usefulness of these extremely valuable ecosystems.

Elodie Magnanou, Focal Point for the Medfoval site La Massane

11 December 2019