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A climate risk analysis of Earth’s forests in the 21st century

Skog med tall och dimma. Foto.

Thomas Pugh, principal investigator at BECC and researcher at MERGE, is one of the researchers behind a new study that is published in Science. In the study, the researchers compared results from three major modeling approaches that provide information on different aspects of risk on the impact of climate change on forests in the 21st century.

Forests harbor enormous biodiversity and are a major carbon sink. Therefore, forest conservation and restoration can help mitigate climate change; however, climate change and land use decisions could fundamentally undermine this ability in many regions of the world.

Different modeling approaches complete the analysis

Predicting the impact of future climate change on forests is challenging because each scientific approach relies on assumptions and incomplete data. In this study, researchers compared results from three major modeling approaches that provide complementary information: a global mechanistic vegetation model, which estimates forest carbon loss; a climate envelope model, which provides information on species shifts; and empirical assessment of forest loss caused by disturbance using satellite imagery. By combining the outputs, despite large uncertainty in most regions, the study found that some forests are consistently at higher risk:

- Forests in the southern boreal belt of the northern hemisphere, such as Canada and large parts of Russia, will be in danger. But also forests in tropical Africa and parts of the Amazon, says Thomas Pugh, principal investigator at BECC and researcher at MERGE. 

In addition to Lund University, the following universities and organizations have participated in the study: University of Utah, University of Birmingham, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena, NOVA University Lisbon, Technical University of Munich, and Berchtesgaden National Park.

Learn more

The study is published in Science: 

A climate risk analysis of Earth's forests in the 21st century

Read an article about the study in Swedish:

Studie visar hur jordens skogar kommer att påverkas av klimatförändringar

Thomas Pugh's profile in Lund University research portal