Reducing vulnerability of Soria’s forests to climate change

The LIFE Soria ForestAdapt project aims to enhance the value of sustainable and adaptive forest management to increase the resilience of forests to climate change.

32
Sabinares de Ciria y Borobia, located in the mountains of Soria, Spain. Photo: Cesefor

The development of a Technical Management and Forestry Reference with measures for the adaptation to climate change is already underway and this will serve as the basis for forest management plans for the entire province of Soria, Spain. The model is one of the actions to be developed under the LIFE Soria ForestAdapt project, which aims to reduce the vulnerability to climate change of forests in southern Europe. This project will work on more than 200,000 hectares of public lands and on all private lands eligible for various climate change adaptation measures, such as the reforestation of agricultural lands.

The participants in this LIFE project are the Cesefor Foundation, together with the Global Nature Foundation (project coordinator), the Fundación Privada Empresa y Clima (FEC), FSC Spain, PEFC Spain, and the University of Valladolid. The initiative can also count on a strong institutional support from the Regional Government of Castilla y León.

The project, which will be developed in the Soria province during the next four years with an investment of 1.5 million euros, aims at improving the resilience of forests towards the challenges of climate change by including adaptive measures in public and private forest management plans.

Socio-economic fabric of the forest sector and the necessity of a sustainable adaptive management

Castilla y León region has the largest forest heritage in Spain with more than 4.8 million hectares. Soria concentrates 13% of the forest area of this region. The accumulation of droughts, heat waves and late frosts can have significant effects on trees, making them more susceptible to pathogens, reducing their growth and eventually producing mass mortalities. Moreover, the mycological productions, a very important economic sector in this province, are being altered by the increase of droughts with models that predict important reductions and changes in their phenology.

Forest in Montenegro de Cameros, located in the province of Soria, Spain. Photo: Cesefor

Reducing the vulnerability of forests to climate change

There is evidence that forest management can make forests more resilient to these climate shocks. For the first time, this project will generate a tool for analysing the vulnerability to climate change on a mountain scale, capable of guiding the decision-making to an adaptive forest management. The aim is to increase the resilience of Soria’s forests and to suggest short- and long-term measures and proposals for the adaptation to climate change that will be easily transferable to other regions. 

These adaptation measures will have a special focus on soil conservation, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation and air quality. It is also planned that, in close collaboration with the owners and technical managers of the province’s forests, especially with the Territorial Environmental Service of the Castilla y Leon Regional Government, 5,000 hectares of woodland will be certified by the FSC and another 10,000 hectares by the PEFC, which will also incorporate new adaptive management criteria. In addition, a business platform will be created in order to begin working on climate change adaptation measures in the forest management, combined with compensation measures.

The results obtained from this LIFE project will enable the incorporation of new studies and measures in the forestry sector, appropriate for the province of Soria and the region Castilla y León and with the capacity to be extrapolated to other regions, both in the Iberian Peninsula and in the European Union. As a matter of fact, Castilla y León region frames this initiative within a broader planning context and the results of this project will serve as a basis for the elaboration of the Regional Plan for the Adaptation of Natural Heritage Management to Climate Change, whose drafting is currently being promoted by the public administration.