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Studies on forest health and vegetation changes in Greece under the effects of climate changes

Chrysopolitou, V., Apostolakis, A., Avtzis, D., Avtzis, N., Diamandis, S., Kemitzoglou, D., Papadimos, D., Perlerou, C., Tsiaoussi, V., Dafis, S.
Biodiversity and conservation 2013 v.22 no.5 pp. 1133-1150
Pinus sylvestris, biodiversity, climate, climate change, conifers, deciduous forests, development projects, dieback, forest ecosystems, forest health, forest management, fungi, pathogens, remote sensing, synergism, temperature, time series analysis, trees, Greece
Greece, as part of the Mediterranean Basin, is projected to be among the most vulnerable countries to climate change. It is therefore quite urgent to adapt forest management to the changing climate in order to enhance biodiversity and to enable the conservation of healthy and productive forests. In the framework of the project LIFE+ AdaptFor ( ), an effort was made to understand the ecological responses and the vulnerability of forest ecosystems in the face of climate change; the overall aim of the project is the development and implementation of appropriate adaptation strategies. Four study areas were selected where changes in vegetation, quite likely attributed to climate change, have already been observed (dieback of Scots pine and Greek fir, intrusion of conifers in broadleaved forests). To investigate the synergism of climatic parameters’ alterations in the development of the occurring phenomena, time series of temperature and precipitation for the period 1950–2009 were produced and parameters of forest status were investigated, including mapping of vegetation changes through remote sensing. The findings support the hypothesis that climate change has an impact on forest health; the dieback of tree species can be attributed to outbreaks of pathogens (fungi and insects) which are associated with climatic parameters. However, the intrusion of conifer species into broadleaved forests showed no direct connection to climatic parameters, something that needs to be further investigated. In all cases, insufficient or inappropriate management practices applied in the areas exacerbated the occurring phenomena.