Adaptation options to reduce climate change vulnerability of sustainable forest management in the Austrian Alps
Sustaining forest ecosystem functions and services under climate change is a major challenge for forest management. While conceptual advances of adapting coupled social–ecological systems to environmental changes have been made recently, good practice examples at the operational level still remain rare. The current study presents the development of adaptation options for 164 550 ha of commercial forests under the stewardship of the Austrian Federal Forests (AFF). We used a comprehensive vulnerability assessment as analysis framework, employing ecosystem modeling and multicriteria decision analysis in a participatory approach with forest planers of the AFF. An assessment of the vulnerability of multiple ecosystem goods and services under current management served as the starting point for the development of adaptation options. Measures found to successfully reduce vulnerability include the promotion of mixed stands of species well adapted to emerging environmental conditions, silvicultural techniques fostering complexity, and increased management intensity. Assessment results for a wide range of site and stand conditions, stand treatment programs, and future climate scenarios were used to condense robust recommendations for adapting the management guidelines currently used by AFF practitioners. Overall, our results highlight the importance of timely adaptation to sustain forest goods and services and document the respective potential of silvicultural measures.