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Assisted Migration of Forests as a climate change economic mitigation strategy Assisted Migration of Forests as a climate change economic mitigation strategy: Marie Curie Actions Final Report

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Abstract

The main purpose of this proposal was to provide the necessary tools to address a particular case ofadaptation and mitigation of forests to climate change in Western Europe: the translocation of treepopulation to compensate for climate change (Assisted Migration; AM).Tree populations have been moved with different purposes before, and we started analyzing theseparticular cases in Europe. In particular, we analyzed a well-document failed case of populationtranslocation of Pinus pinaster Ait from the Iberian peninsula to southern France, which entailed anenormous economic loss that led to the only case where the use of foreign tree populations wasprohibited by the European Union, which otherwise promotes the free exchange of seeds betweenecologically matched sites (EU Council Directive 1999/105/EC of 22 December 1999). An opinionpaper (Restoration Ecology 2013) and a reply letter (Bioscience 2013) are related to theseexperiences analyzing translocations in the past.A second step was devoted to propose new scenarios for translocations in the future based on climatedata and the fitness (measured as the volume/year as recorded in NFI). To do that, we producedscenarios (theoretical representation) of assisted migration actions for two important candidates forAM in Europe: Pinus pinaster and Pinus halepensis. We harmonized the Spanish and FrenchNational Forest Inventories for standing volume and mortality, which allowed us to run modelscovering Western Europe. Target zones were selected from provenances with high sensitivity andseed zones from provenances with low sensitivity to climate change; the latter can be considered“seed refugia” as the climate changes. Three plausible scenarios for translocation to the target zonewere developed on the basis of volume simulations calibrated with different planting Abies albastrategies: 1) seeds only from foreign provenances; 2) foreign provenances plus local seeds; and 3)only local seeds. Our results suggested that volume and mortality trends were not always correlatedwith seed sources and targets, that projected provenances mortality do not follow always asouthern-northern pattern and that seed refugia, if any, may be useful for compensating for the effectsof climate change only in a subset of provenances (this approximation has been published in thejournal New Forests 2015).To evaluate which native forests are likely candidates for AM we estimated the vulnerability of thenative species in Western Europe including the sensitivity, the exposure and the adaptive capacity ofthe major tree species in ecological models for creating scenarios for current climatic conditions andfuture ones. The results of these simulations are considering for publication in the journal EcologicalApplications. Our results suggest that management programs should be different for mountainconifers populations occurring at their rear-edge of their distribution that need to be sampled moreintensively to preserve their genetic resources compared to lowland widespread temperate specieswhere vulnerabilities seem lower and populations more homogeneous. Likewise, for rear-edgepopulations, ex-situ programs considering some compensation for climate change (assistedProject No.: 327778Period number: 1stRef: 327778_AMECO_Final_Report11_20151222_165135_CET.pdfPage - 3 of 11migration) may be essential to preserve the populations for which conditions become too harsh butthat may have a better chance in higher latitudes and altitudes.The adaptation of socio-ecological systems to climate change depends not only on the evolutionarypotential of natural populations but on the decisions taken by social actors that mediate naturalprocesses. To succeed in moving trees to compensate for climate change the development of adecision framework based on variations in tree fitness in relation with climate is a priority. In trees,provenance trials provide new insights to understand the future of populations under climate change.We use data from an European network of 33 provenance tests of Abies alba planted in 5 sites inFrance to predict spatial variation in tree height at 9 years old in the present and in the near future.We integrated the outputs of the height tree model in combination with the ones of habitat suitabilityfor each of the climate scenarios in a decision framework to guide assisted colonization tocompensate for climate change. We apply three decision rules to cope with the uncertain states of theworld represented by four climate change scenarios showing that there is no unique ‘best decision’and that the general recommendation of mixtures of populations, although probably not the mostproductive, can reduce uncertainty in the long term by allowing natural forests to evolve.

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