Pascal Xicluna /

Facing more and more frequent episodes of drought, forest must adapt. The French National Forestry Office (ONF) is working closely with research, particularly on questions related to the density and composition of tree planting.

Climate change upsets the living conditions of trees: Vegetative periods prolong, the trees are confronted with parasitic attacks, an increased risk of fire or storms. Employees from the ONF are working to help French public forests adapt to climate change. Forest management has developed a closer relationship with research to better think about adapting trees and to developing forests that are more resilient in the future.

The ONF has identified two tools for this: The density and composition of stands of trees.

  • With trees that are more spaced out, the pressure exerted by the forest on water resources decreases, which in consequence improves the water balance of the plant.
  • By planting species with different sensitivities together, the forest increases its resilience to extreme climate events, decreasing the risk of a sudden productivity loss.

The Giono project is an experiment in facilitated migration. Seeds of various origins are selected in the south of France to be germinated in a nursery in western France, and are then planted in the Verdun forest.

Presented in Paris in 2016 during the COP21, this initiative intends to push back against the endangerment of species due to climate change. Oak and beech trees from the south of France are selected, where they are exposed to the frontlines of climate change and thus better adapted to hotter and drier conditions, and then are replanted in the north in the forest of Verdun. The analysis of 700 trees planted from harvested seeds will allow to better deploy facilitated migration techniques in northern forests.

Another experiment is being conducted on the Bornmuller pine tree. It aims to detect species that display the strongest resistance and resilience to climate change. An operational group, piloted by the ONF, intends to test the distinct species of the trees that are currently managed in the regional forests in the Grand Est region of France.