30 Jan 2023
 | 30 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

The potential of an increased deciduous forest fraction to mitigate the effects of heat extremes in Europe

Marcus Breil, Annabell Weber, and Joaquim G. Pinto

Abstract. Deciduous forests are characterized by a higher albedo, a reduced stomatal resistance and a deeper root system in comparison to coniferous forests. As a consequence, less solar radiation is absorbed and evapotranspiration is potentially increased, making an increase in the deciduous forest fraction potentially a promising measure to mitigate the burdens of heat extremes for humans and nature. We analyze this potential by means of an idealized 30 years long regional climate model experiment, in which all coniferous forests in Europe are replaced by deciduous forests and compared to a simulation using the actual forest composition.

Results show that an increase in the deciduous forest fraction significantly reduces the heat intensity during heat periods in most regions of Europe. In mean, a slight reduction of the daily maximum 2 m temperatures about 0.2 K is simulated locally, and 0.1 K non-locally during heat periods. Regions with a high cooling potential are south-western France and northern Turkey, where heat period intensities are reduced up to 1 K. Negative effects are simulated in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Although the cooling effect on heat period intensities is statistically significant over large parts of Europe, the magnitude of the temperature reduction is small. An increase in the deciduous forest fraction has consequently only a limited potential to reduce heat period intensities in Europe and can therefore only be considered as a supporting mitigation measure to complement more effective mitigation strategies.

Marcus Breil et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2023-18', Anonymous Referee #1, 20 Feb 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2023-18', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 Feb 2023

Marcus Breil et al.

Marcus Breil et al.


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Short summary
A promising strategy to mitigate burdens of heat extremes in Europe is to replace dark coniferous forests with brighter deciduous forests. A reduced absorption of solar radiation would be the consequence, which should reduce the intensities of heat periods. In this study we can show that there is a certain cooling effect of deciduous forest on heat period intensities in Europe, however, the magnitude of the temperature reduction is quite small.