An international team of researchers has studied and mapped the different temperatures of Europe's forests. This new tool aims to assess the impact of climate change on biodiversity and the insulating power of forests.
Published in the journal Global Change Biology, the study used a database obtained from 1,200 temperature sensors and satellite images across Europe's forests. "To improve the assessment of climatic conditions and climate-change-related impacts on forest-floor biodiversity and functioning, high-resolution temperature grids reflecting forest microclimates are thus urgently needed," explain the authors in a press release.
According to their observations, the insulating effect of trees allows temperatures to drop by 2.1°C in summer and maintains a temperature 2°C higher than the ambient air temperature in winter throughout Europe. "This insulating effect undeniably provides shelter for forest-dwelling wildlife. However, if droughts, human activity and storms continue to intensify in the future, the insulation provided by forests could be jeopardized , endangering these ecosystems," the researchers emphasize.
According to the study, the average monthly difference between the temperature under the canopy (foliage of trees directly exposed to sunlight) and that of the open air is 15 cm above the surface for the period 2000-2020.
"This offset was used to evaluate the difference between microclimate and macroclimate across space and seasons and finally enabled us to calculate mean annual and monthly temperatures for European forest understories," the study authors note.
Scientists hope that these new mappings will allow research in the future to more accurately model biological processes and patterns beneath the canopy, as well as the distribution of species in forests.