Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 12.06.2006

Climate change is manifested as seasonal changes

It is estimated that by 2080 climate change in Finland will cause an increase of 3-7 degrees in the annual average temperature and of 5-40 percent in precipitation. Temperature measurements made in Sodankylä indicate that no significant change has occurred in the average temperatures in Lapland during the past 100 years. However, climate change is clearly manifested as increasing fluctuation in the weather: summers start earlier, autumns are longer and winters are milder.

These facts were reported in Climate change in Lapland, a publication by the Finnish Forest Research Institute. The report presents a study on climate development in Lapland, adaptation of the ecosystem to the changes and the effects of climate change on reindeer husbandry, forestry and conservation.

The predicted rise in winter precipitation will increase the thickness of snow cover, which means that digging for nutrition will become more difficult for reindeer. Milder winters also increase the risk of thawing causing hardening of snow, which also hinders reindeer’s digging for nutrition. In contrast, early springs improve the physical condition of reindeer by increasing the amount of spring green. However, an early spring does not compensate for reindeer mortality and reduction of calves due to exceptionally massive snow or soil frost.

Climate change, when realized, will also have an impact on forest management and timber harvesting. Wood consumption can be increased when forest growth increases and tree provenances of more southern areas are used more frequently. On the other hand, timber harvesting might become more cumbersome during winter and the probability of various forms of forest damage increases. For example, an increasing risk of storm damage may necessitate changes to harvesting methods.

Climate in the northern areas has changed considerably over centuries and millenniums. Consequently, species and northern forest ecosystems are adapted to considerable climate changes. However, the ecosystems under the prevailing conditions at different times have been very different from those of today, which is a consequence of the varying adaptative capabilities of the species. Therefore, forest management practices determined on the basis of current conditions or, for example, the concept of diversity as we understand it, based on the current species and forest ecosystems will not necessarily be appropriate in changed climate conditions.

Authors for the publication Climate change in Lapland - are the changes manifested - can the ecosystem adapt to the change are specialists representing Metla, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the University of Helsinki and Metsähallitus.

Publication: Nikula, Ari & Varmola, Martti (toim.). Ilmastonmuutos Lapissa – näkyvätkö muutokset – sopeutuuko luonto? Working Papers of the Finnish Forest Research Institute 25. 58 s. (in Finnish)

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