Forests and climate change: Future strategies for protection and sustainable use

Background and Goals

The research and development project "Forests and Climate Change", funded by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), deals with the effects of the climate change on nature conservation in forests and Germany's forest conservation policies.

The climate change has recently become the subject of many forest and nature conservation policy discussions in Germany. If it occurs to the predicted extent, this will significantly change the scope of action in forestry policies in the coming decades. Already, as far as society's responsibilities towards future generations are concerned, policy-makers are facing considerable challenges.

Research is needed on the consequences of the climate change for existing concepts of forest conservation. The project will therefore examine current values and reference systems for forest conservation and the protection strategies derived from them, as well as the current nature conservation policy instruments relating to the climate change. Proposals for the future strategic and conceptual alignment of national nature and forest conservation policies in Germany will be developed on the basis of these results - as a framework for regionally differentiated adaptation strategies.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Use of current climate projections

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

With the rise in the average temperature now predicted to happen at an unprecedented speed, the global warming leads us to expect significant impacts on forest ecosystems, due to their comparatively slow adaptive capacity and anthropogenic imprint. Among other things, climate-induced changes can lead to habitats no longer meeting the requirements of certain animal and plant species. The difficulties are intensified by sometimes considerable uncertainties, for example temporal or spatial variations of the climate change and its exact nature, by the interactions with other anthropogenic impacts and by the possible reactions of the ecosystems. (e.g. habitat fragmentation, nitrogen deposition).

While some value frameworks and strategies in nature conservation might prove to be relatively stable, other parameters and reference models that have so far been considered constant could be questioned, such as the potential natural vegetation, habitat maps and reference and alarm systems associated with them (such as Red Lists). As a result of this, impacts on the objectives, arguments and actions of forest conservation and policy stakeholders are to be expected or may already be observed.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

The possible adaptive capacity of forest ecosystems to deal with the projected changes will be analysed. The objective is to identify potential future policy models and reference systems for forest conservation. At the same time, the future applicability of existing national forest conservation policy instruments will be examined with regard to the climate change and improved.


Funding / Financing 

Federal Office for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Forestry, forestry and environmental policy, nature conservation, landscape management


Institut für Landespflege
Tennenbacher Straße 4
D-79106 Freiburg

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Fields of action:
 biological diversity  woodland and forestry