Multi-decadal trend analysis and forest disturbance assessment of European tree species: concerning signs of a subtle shift

C. Bonannella, Leandro Leal Parente, S. de Bruin, M. Herold

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Climate change poses a significant threat to the distribution and composition of forest tree species worldwide. European forest tree species’ range is expected to shift to cope with the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, pests and diseases caused by climate change. Despite numerous regional studies, a continental scale assessment of current changes in species distributions in Europe is missing due to the difficult task of modeling a species realized distribution and to quantify the influence of forest disturbances on each species. In this study we conducted a trend analysis on the realized distribution of 6 main European forest tree species (Abies alba Mill., Fagus sylvatica L., Picea abies L. H. Karst., Pinus nigra J. F. Arnold, Pinus sylvestris L. and Quercus robur L.) to capture and map the prevalent trends in probability of occurrence for the period 2000–2020. We also analyzed the impact of forest disturbances on each species’ range and identified the dominant disturbance drivers. Our results revealed an overall trend of stability in species’ distributions (85% of the pixels are considered stable by 2020 for all species) but we also identified some hot spots characterized by negative trends in probability of occurrence, mostly at the edges of each species’ latitudinal range. Additionally, we identified a steady increase in disturbance events in each species’ range by disturbance (affected range doubled by 2020, from 3.5% to 7% on average) and highlighted species-specific responses to forest disturbance drivers such as wind and fire. Overall, our study provides insights into distribution trends and disturbance patterns for the main European forest tree species. The identification of range shifts and the intensifying impacts of disturbances call for proactive conservation efforts and long-term planning to ensure the resilience and sustainability of European forests.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023


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