What climate changes are happening?

Scotland's Climate Trends Handbook describes the changes in weather patterns experienced in Scotland over the last century. Did you know, for example, that the agricultural growing season has increased by more than 30 days since 1961? Or that average precipitation is up by over 25% over the same period?

Climate projections

The climate is also projected to change considerably in the future. A straightforward way to find out about this is to look at Adaptation Scotland’s Compendium of Climate Information, which includes summary maps and tables for Scotland. Their website includes a vast amount of additional information if more detail is required. While understanding likely trends is important, it is the unpredictable extreme events – storms, floods, droughts – that will have the biggest impact on our forests.

Pests and diseases

Scotland’s trees are facing major threats from pests and diseases. Our scientific understanding suggests that climate change is likely to create the conditions that could make this worse. The Forestry Commission’s information on pests and disease give a list of the threats that are already in Britain as well as those threats ‘on the horizon’, and includes details on recognising and managing them.

Is there any good news?

Yes. Longer growing seasons and a warmer climate may lead to better tree growth – where other factors such as soil moisture or pests and diseases are not limiting. Commercial tree growth may also become possible at higher altitudes than currently.

The other good news is that the way forests are now being managed; with more variation and greater consideration for our diverse environment than in the past, and with better systems for monitoring and planning; means that forestry is already moving in the right direction.

Furthermore, the actions that we think will help are not ‘big bang’ changes that turn forestry on its head. Instead they are actions that will help build resilience not only to climatic changes but also to the many other factors that affect forestry – economic and political changes for example – yet are at the same time grounded in the present-day realities of forestry practice.